Archive for March, 2016

 

RJ_DS_22

“O Romeo, Romeo,  wherefore art thou Romeo?”  Apparently he relocated to Rwanda.  In the new documentary directed by Ben Proudfoot, the cameras follow eccentric Dartmouth retired professor Andrew Garrod from Vermont to the impoverished and recovering area of Rwanda to bring high school children the gift of Shakespeare.  Why would anyone want to do this?  Garrod saw the parallels between the conflict and resolution of the play Romeo and Juliet and the formerly warring tribes of the Hutus and the Tutsis.  As you recall,  1 million Rwandan citizens were murdered in 100 days.  Genocide performed by the Hutus against the Tutsis left few survivors, typically children, who are now youScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.59.07 AMng adults.  Garrod, as a part of an American theatre group, is hoping that performing Romeo and Juliet can help bring reconciliation to the struggling country.  What it ultimately brings is something very unexpected.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

We begin our journey  with Garrod from his book cluttered home in Vermont as he prepares for this expensive and overwhelming endeavor to create live theater in Rwanda.  He seems a bit scattered as he comically attempts to refold a map of the world and find his misplaced passport.  Arriving with his colleague, the casting calls and auditions begin with an underwhelming response.  You can sense the tension and mistrust from the young actors listening to this rather demanding white man.  We seeScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.59.34 AM both Garrod and the cast relax with time as they attempt to understand one another.  Seeing Garrod dance by the sea and the kids’  joy that that brings is priceless.  As the weeks pass, however, there are obstacles to overcome.   Finances, expectations, and emotional obstacles all become a part of the possible failure of this man’s endeavor.

 

“Rwanda & Juliet” captures the reality of life, painting an accurate picture of all involved.   Garrod is a perfectionist and his demands upon his students seem unrealistic. It’s at times uncomfortable to listen to him speak to these kids in the manner that he does.  He seems to not fully understand the cultural issues and what these young aduScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.03.58 AMlts have endured.  And his own life and experiences seem  much too different for him to succeed.  You are on this journey with Garrod and on the edge of your seat as you don’t know whether or not he will succeed.  I doubt him as I see him dig deeply into his own pension fund when a financial backer drops out.  This stress is palpable.  This film doesn’t have to have a Hollywood ending—it’s real.

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.04.23 AM

Reading about the atrocities of the genocide that occurred in 1994 is one thing, but to hear the first hand account from those who have survived it is quite another.  The candid individual interviews with cast members allows us to get a glimpse into what happened to each of them.  After hearing their strong, passionate voices describe their memoScreen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.02.29 AMries or take us to the site where families’ bodies were dumped will bring you to tears.  But their resolve and determination that allowed them to survive continues on as they look to the future with a smile.  Tete who plays Juliet is simply inspirational.  Clovis who plays the peacekeeper Benvolio shares the mixed emotions about the beauty and horrors of a nearby lake.  With each of these actors having their own personal reasons for wanting to be in the play, we discover that perhaps a Shakespearean play can do more than reconcile differences, it can also be therapeutic.

“Rwanda & Juliet” beautifully captures and documents the ups and downs of putting on a play, but it also educates the viewer about the forgotten people of Rwanda.  We feel that we are on a personal journey as we experience heartfelt sadness, doubt, anger, and overwhelming joy and hope of Garrod’s adventure.  It’s a realistic and inspirational film allowing us to understand the common bonds that can form through the expression of art—in this case the production of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’  The gift of theater and art knows no cultural boundaries, creating positive life changes.

RJ_STILL_02

 

To see “Rwanda & Juliet” at the Phoenix Film Festival, go to phoenixfilmfestival.org

“Midnight Special,” Jeff Nichols’ fourth feature film after the notable success of “Mud” (2012), hits theaters this weekend.  Starring Michael Shannon and Jaeden Lieberher, the film showcases Nichols’ fine-tuned writing and directing skills.  The story revolves around a father (Shannon) and his young son (Lieberher) on the run from authorities and a religious cult.  The destination appears to be every bit as important as the reason they are running.  This high intensity and unusually thrilling film keeps you guessing and attempting to put together the pieces of the puzzle.  The picture isn’t truly clear until the very end—and what an end it is!

FullSizeRender

I had the opportunity to sit down with Nichols to discuss the story’s genesis as well as the process of making “Midnight Special.”    With a gravely voice, Nichols admitted to being exhausted after  a full week of talking with press.  However, his expression and words relayed that he was equally as thrilled that people wanted to discuss this film.  Car chases, car choices, religion, and parenthood all find their way into this newest adventure for Nichols.

The story itself is heavily visual with little conversation.  But every spoken word is of the utmost importance. Nichols expressed that he is evolving as a minimalist storyteller and “Midnight Special” is “…designed to be the ultimate part of the evolution.”  He described it as a “reduction in narrative exposition” and enjoys the outcome of this style.  However, he also admitted that he took it to an extreme in this film.  In an attempt to explain how this writing style works, Nichols said, “I try to treat dialogue just like behavior.  You don’t always say what you mean…and you certainly don’t always speak your subtext.  I just try and be real honest about the situations I put my characters in.”

Endings are also generally something important to writers, but Nichols finds endings to be tricky.  He related that most screenwriters have an idea of how the plot will resolve itself, but he doesn’t think of endings that way.  “I think about them as developments out of character; character feelings, character emotions.  I think that’s why sometimes my endings are off-putting for people because I don’t really care about wrapping up the plot.”  He continued to explain that this Spielberg inspired film is about “reaching this kind of emotional climax for the characters” and that he wants to have that same kind of wonder and awe that unfolds before you.

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Wonder and awe are also an influence in the plot of this film in a very personal way for Nichols.  Unfortunately, he experienced a very traumatic event which gave way to the creation of the second level of this chase movie; it’s the heart and soul of the film.  During this time period, his 8 month old son had a very high fever which lead to what is called a febrile seizure.  Thankfully, now at the age of 5, his son is healthy and doing fine.  But at the time, Nichols shared, “It was a really terrifying experience for my wife and I.”  As many of us know, being a parent is very overwhelming during that first year and Nichols expressed that he and his wife “…were kind of under water.  You’re exhausted.  Your social life has disappeared.  Your whole life changes.  My wife and I refer to that first year as The Darkness.”

As he witnessed the terrifying event of a seizure of his helpless infant, Nichols realized that “this boy could be taken away from me at any time” which would cripple him as a human, he said with gravity in his voice.  He also came to the realization that he really has little to no control over whether this being lives, dies, grows into a great person or a bad person.  “I can only effect these things in the margin,” he said.  He began to question why he was a parent and what his role is in his son’s life.  Nichols came to the conclusion that, “As a parent, I must be here in order to try and understand who my son is, what he needs, and as he grows, redefine that…and help him realize his potential.”  In addition, Nichols’ intuitive nature and ability to question the deeper meaning of life allowed him to see that he cannot project himself onto his son.  This experience and all of these momentous realizations “became the trajectory for Mike Shannon’s character.”  To say it is complex, is an understatement.

Fatherhood is just one of the many multi-layered storylines of “Midnight Special.” In addition,  religion on various levels enters into the plot as we see the faith that Alton’s  (Lieberher) parents have in him as well as The Ranch from which Alton has escaped.  Nichols conveys his personal thoughts about religion as he feels “it can become dangerous when you build a belief system for yourself and you start to impose it on other people.  That’s when religion can become evil.”  He emphasizes that The Ranch has very selfish reasons for believing in this boy which compounds the complexity of the situation.  With each character representing different viewpoints about religion, every viewer will find him/herself relating to the questions at hand.

Alton is the focal point of the film and working with young children can be intimidating for filmmakers, but not in this case.  Nichols was “immediately struck by [Jaeden’s] intelligence.   He continued in a fatherly and proud tone that Jaeden was so honest and pragmatic in his approach that he was able to be keenly and innately aware of what was needed in each scene.  Nichols compared this ability and style to Shannon.  With no rehearsals and very little conversation about the backstory of his character, Shannon also had that innate understanding of what Nichols needed.  He says, “I think that’s why we suit each other.  We see eye to eye on things.”

Seeing eye to eye doesn’t always happe002924_pfn in a marriage and Nichols admits that he wrote a chase film so that he could be rid of his wife’s car to which she held sentimental value.  Nichols, who is bored by car chases and wanted a different approach to this type of film made a deal with his wife.  He hated her Isuzu Rodeo which is the first car she ever bought.  “I told her that if I write a movie that destroys that car, will you let me destroy it?  And she said yes!”  As luck would have it, however, with the damage of a hail storm to the Isuzu, the dings couldn’t be replicated on the other 9 vehicles used in the movie so as we wives all know, we always win.  The Isuzu is still in the family’s possession although it  parked at his in-laws’ house now.

“Midnight Special” is truly just that—it’s special.  And knowing some of the backstory about this film brings it to another level of appreciation.  Nichols has created one of his most extraordinary and thrilling films to date.  As I was leaving the interview, I promised that I would ask him about the Isuzu after the release of his next film, “Loving.”  His response was a chuckle conveying he wasn’t going to hold his breath on that one.

 

 

ews

“Everybody Wants Some” is Linklater’s latest release, reportedly a continuation of the 1980’s throwback “Dazed and Confused.”  Jake, a freshman baseball player, arrives at college, attempting to navigate much more than the college campus just days before classes begin.  With confidence exuding, he seems less intimidated by his upperclassmen teammates than the cute girl with whom he is immediately smitten.  The film, although not much of an actual story, chronicles Jake’s adventures in college—a throw-back, but new rendition of Animal House, athletic style.

DSC01927

Jumping back into 1980, the stars of the film who are all in their 20’s, sat down to talk with me about the filming experience and what they hope viewers will take away from “Everybody Wants Some.”   Blake Jenner (Jake), the star of the film, Tyler Hoechlin (McReynolds. the cocky upperclassman), and Will Brittain (Billy Autry, the socially awkward southerner),  each had their own insight about and hopes for the film.

Unlike these young men, I thoroughly remember 1980.  OK, maybe “foggily” is a more fitting word.  How could these young men have any idea as to what the early 80’s were like?  Jenner said, “Growing up, my dad gave me a taste of the 80’s music like Devo and David Bowie.  It colored my palate for my favorite kind of music.”  He added, “Rick (Linklater) was there for every single question [about the era].”  Both Hoechlin and Brittain emphasized that “Rick” with his phenomenal memory, gave them all the information necessary to recreate living in that era.  Regarding those lovely yet not forgotten apparel choices, Hoechlin said he scoured the wardrobe choices asking himself, “What’s the most ridiculous thing I could find to wear?”  Mesh shirts, short jean cut-offs were immediately grabbed, but when he wanted to use the thong from wardrobe, Linklater reeled Hoechlin back in saying it was not of that time period.  The look of disappointment could still be seen on Hoechlin’s face.

Linklater is an award winning filmmaker, a genius in many critic’s minds, which could have been intimidating to these young actors.  This certainly was not the case.  The group whole-heartedly conveyed that Linklater’s down-to-earth demeanor immediately relaxed them, allowing complete collaboration during the rehearsal and filming process.  Brittain fondly reminisced about the entire audition process which allowed for each actor to evolve into their specific roles as they each auditioned for many parts.  Through their own process of elimination and collaboration with Linklater, they found the right role for themselves.  For Jenner, the process was so seamless that he chuckled aloud as he came to this realization and said,  “I never thought about it like that [because] Rick was so collaborative.”

It’s also obvious that these gentlemen thoroughly enjoyed the process of making “Everybody Wants Some.”  In fact, Brittain said as he sat back comfortably in his leather chair, “We were just hanging out and every now and then someone would turn a camera on and we would keep hanging out!”   As they all laughed about this, Brittain added, “The movie came second to us having a good time.”  Hoechlin, on a more serious note, added that theEverybody-Wants-Somere was one line from the film that really hit home for him and he hoped others would embrace it too— “Never bring who they want.  Always bring who you are.  And that’s when it gets fun.”  It looks like these young men followed that advice and had a blast making “Everybody Wants Some.”

Coincidentally, Hoechlin in real life did attend college on a baseball scholarship.  When I asked him about the reality of the situations in the film that seem a bit skewed and far-fetched,  he admitted that the parties represented in the film were much more fun than he recalls.  However, the competitive nature among “the guys” is very real.  Hoechlin said, “It’s a really interesting dynamic in sport teams, especially in college, when you’re competing for a job.  I need you to do well because I want our team to win, but I also need you to not take my job.”  “Everybody Wants Some” conveys this deeper aspect of the competitiveness of playing a college sport.ews2

There was an element of charm and sweetness as these men expressed their hopes for this film.  All of them wanted viewers to know that you can get to know one another and relate to each other sans cell phone.  Back in the day, people talked and told stories and even embellished a bit.   But in today’s world,  there is no elaboration of story-telling because of Instagram proof.  Talking, listening, and relating, according to Brittain, is non-existent thanks to technology.  Sadly, this generation longs for what we took for granted “back in the day”…each other.

Make no mistake.  This is a guy’s movie and is geared toward the 20-somethings. It’s a story with little narrative arc, but does portray a small time period in one boy’s life.  Be warned, however, the film is from a male’s perspective which views most women as dumb objects to conquer. On the positive side, it is a nostalgic look for both men and women over the age of 50 to walk down memory lane as you hear “My Sharona” and cringe at the styles that we wore.  To me, these were the highlights of the film.  Getting to know a few of these actors and their hopes for this film and the message it could convDSC01926ey, endears me a bit more to the film.

 

Rescue-Dogs

“Rescue Dogs” is one of those sweet family movies that you can feel good about going to see.  Not just because it’ll entertain the kids with talking dogs, quirky characters, and a good guy versus bad guy story line, but because seeing this film will help raise money for rescue organizations across the country.  Busted Buggy Entertainment (BBE) has partnered with 20 animal rescue organizations in New York, Chicago, Austin, Seattle and many more, to receive  20% of box office receipts.  To see a complete list of participating theaters, go to rescuedogsmovie.com/screenings

This generously creative format is the brainchild of the company’s founder and star of the film, Courtney Dacourtneyniels.  In a recent inbaronterview with Daniels, she proudly stated that she is  the owner of several rescue animals.   Daniels laughed, “Dog hair is a condiment.”  (Now there’s a dinner guest I can have at my house!)   One of her own rescue dogs is the other star of the film, Baron who plays Charger. Daniels shared with me that her mother  volunteered at a shelter in Arizona for years, fostering dogs. When she found Baron, she convinced Daniels that  she needed this dog.  I’m guessing it didn’t take too much convincing based on the happiness in Daniels’ voice.  The two have been inseparable ever since.   Daniels wanted to create awareness about these adorable and loving rescue animals.   She passionately explained, “…you don’t have to be a pure bred.  Animals come into your life and change it and make it better.”

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Making someone’s life better is exactly the message of “Rescue Dogs.”  In the film, Tracy (Paul Haapaniemi) creates culinary delights thanks to his muse, Chargepauldogr (Baron), at his beachfront restaurant.  When the Evil Businessman (Casey Campbell) comes along, full of nothing but greed, wanting the property for a golf course, Tracy must find a way to keep his restaurant.  But it seems that it’s a losing battle.  How can the little guy fight big business and money?  After he meets and falls in love with the beautiful dancer, Bridgette (Daniels), under false pretenses, Tracy finds himself in an overwhelming mess that can only be cleaned up by the wiser dogs in their lives.  In other words, the humans need to be rescued!

The film is narrated by a couple of sea animals who sound like an old married couple.  We are introduced to Harper (Jordan Rawlins), the oddball brother  who can hear and understand what the animals are saying, but is oblivious to the amazing nature of this ability.  He seems to have spent a bit too much time in the sun as he thinks there’s a buried treasure marked with an “X” somewhere nearby.  Evil Boss  whose face we intentionally never see and his cat Nightmare (he hates his name) go to great lengharperths to shut down Tracy’s business.  The Banker (Andrew Ryan Harvey) is hired to help the evil plan commence and these larger than life characters create funny yet clear-cut lines of good and evil.  There is a lot of action accompanied by a talking Hamster (voiced by Fred Tatsciore) and two talking dogs (Charger-Peter Oldring, Callie-Tamara Garfield) creating fun and sometimes silly situations that will capture kids’ attention.  With an underlying love story between Tracy and Bridgette, the movie has gone to the dogs—in a good way.

Daniels shared with me that all the animals featured in “Rescue Dogs” are truly just that—rescued animals.  As actors memorized their lines, the two dogs were taught their “lines” or actions.  Daniels chuckled that at the last minute, two weeks before filming, they decided to use Baron as “Charger.”  Daniels not only coordinated her own schedule but two weeks worth of trainer appointments and home training with Baron.  Baron seemed unfazed by the schedule and easily performed the tasks no matter how many takes it took the humans to get their lines right.  And a bit of ad libbing is always fun when you’re working with animals, Daniels conveyed.  With a drone shot, Baron was filmed running down the beach.  He was so interested in the drone that he began to chase it and ran for much longer than anticipated, but the happiness they captured was priceless.

It’s not often that you find a family film that  has an entertaining and positive message and the potential to  help the community at the same time.  “Rescue Dogs” is just that film.  With fun characters and a charming story, the talking animals add the element of genuine entertainment that make this film a joy to see.callie1  As Tracy says in the movie,  “Be a part of something bigger, something beautiful” and as I say, “Go see “Rescue Dogs.”

If you’re in the Chicago area, you’re in luck!  “Rescue Dogs” will be screening at the Marcus Addison Cinema, 1555 W. Lake St., in Addison, Illinois April 1-7.  This will benefit the Chicago Animal Welfare League.  If you don’t live near a theater that is showing this film, you can still see “Rescue Dogs” and help raise funds for your own rescue organization through TUGG, a theatrical screening company.  For more information about this, go to tugg.com/titles/rescue-dogs.

 

sc0002016f

My rescue dog, Bongo, rescued and loved us for 16 years!

SINCE_Poster_CockPit_24x36 full size

A film by Phil Furey and Spencer Averick

There are defining moments in history, a crossroads, if you will. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 is 1988 FILE PHOTO OF THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING CRASH SITE.one of those crossroads that our world took the wrong turn in how to handle a terrorist attack.  This negligence spurred by greed may have changed the course of future events in terrorism and our dependency on oil.  How could one attack make a difference?  Watch the documentary “Since” which captures the lives cut short and those families who never experienced justice for their murdered children and you’ll clearly see  the lines of guilt connect.  The information that is unearthed is simply disturbing and sickening, but so very necessary to know.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

For 10 years, documentary filmmaker Phil Furey and his team  have interviewed and researched the facts behind the bombing of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  270 innocent lives were taken.  The documentary team follows three families of victims of this murderous attack whose children attended Syracuse University, traveling home from studying abroad. The film clearly and concisely shows us all the details of the attack, the sentencing and release of those found responsible, and how a trillion dollar oil deal with BP was the genesis for the attacker’s release.  The film depicts not just the US, but also the UK and Scotland and what we, as countries, are willing to turn a blind eye to in exchange for continuing our dependency on oil.

We hear first-hand accounts from parents as they learned of their children’s death via the television.  We see the painsince_bombing_pan_am_flight_103_documentary_film_24 they endured and continue enure as the injustices continue.  Using actual footage from news accounts and interviews with officials and reporters, we also see the obvious choices these governments made with Libya in exchange for crude oil.  We also learn about how these parents banded together to try to make

US FAMILY WITH PICTURE OF THEIR KILLED DAUGHTER IN SOESTERBERG. changes to prevent attacks like this in the future and to change our response system.  While some of these goals were met, it is obvious that many others were not.  The film captures this and tells a story of an impossible healing process not only of the families directly affected, but of the citizens of Lockerbie, Scotland.  They, too, lost community members, but they also helped the families from abroad with simple, but meaningful gestures such as returning their children’s clothing.

How does a parent or family heal?  Everyone has differensince_bombing_pan_am_flight_103_documentary_film_10t coping mechanisms from creating sculptures depicting the reactions of the parents to fighting government.  “Since” allows the viewers to see the process and the determination of the parents to make a difference in the future.  Unfortunately, the reactions from officials at Pan Am and even current governments across the world, including President Obama, over the next 28 years was having salt poured into a wound.

The beauty in this film comes in the filming and Furey’s ability to truly capture emotion which is gorgeously augmented by the musical score.  His dedication to telling this powerful and relevant story, although an extremely emotional one, is important for all of us to understand.  The film brings to the forefront questions that should have been asked almost 30 years ago, but still need to be asked now.

“Since” is a masterfully created film which tells a compassionate story with an emotional punch.  The social relevancy of the  political information unveiled allows us to be better informed.  And with knowledge comes power.  Everyone, including those young adults from Syracuse Universisince_bombing_pan_am_flight_103_documentary_film_05ty, who was lost on Pan Am Flight 103 should not have died in vain.  “Since” gives us the assurance that perhaps that will not be the case.

For more information about this film go to www.since103.com

To see this film at the Phoenix Film Festival, go to www.phoenixfilmfestival.com

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 6.10.13 PM

 

Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, and Honey Buddies at the Arclight Cinemas are all a part of The Reel Focus this week!

WATCH THE EPISODE HERE

For more information about tickets to “Honey Buddies” at the Arclight Cinemas, go to arclightcinemas.com

My-Big-Fat-Greek-Wedding-Sequel-2

Sequels generally aren’t as good as the original; that’s a given.  And “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” lives up to that expectation with flying colors.  With over-the-top performances, mugging for the camera, and chaotic and numerous story-lines, this newest version makes your head spin and eyes roll.  Nia Vardalos has written and stars in this sequel as the now married mother of a teen whose family continues to be a major influence (and issue) in her life. With the discovery that Mom and Dad really aren’t married, another wedding must take place, but there are obstacles in the way including an inadequate marriage proposal.  As usual, Toula must fix everything.

greekWATCH THE TRAILER HERE

The entire ensemble returns with a few additions to the cast:   John Stamos and Rita Wilson are two recognizable faces giving nothing more than a quick cameo performance. Windex is the first returning character we see, eliciting a huge burst of laughter from the audience.  The familiar narrative humor from Toula (Vardalos) finds its way into the sequel as well which is welcoming.   In the last 14+ years, Ian (John Corbett) has assimilated into the Greek family and   their teen daughter rebels against a hovering mother.  With her relationship drifting apart, her daughter’s college application process,  and an out-of-control extended family,  Toula tries to fix everything…everything except her relationship with Ian.  And most importantly, we learn about a family secret that sends this already frenetic family into a tizzy.

The first “Greek Wedding” is a film

greek22The original “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a movie that I have seen numerous times.  It has an element of charm, reality, and interesting characters.  Where “Greek Wedding 2” falls apart is that there are too many story lines going on, giving it no focal point.  With plastic grins and cardboard performances from everyone, except Andrea Martin’s “Aunt Vuola,” this film falls flat.  Corbet seems to be somewhere else as he recites his lines and Vardalos appears to think she’s on a stage where the patron in the last row of the balcony must somehow see her facial expressions.  Even the staging and movement of the characters seems stilted and unnatural.  There is an attempt, however, for this film to redeem itself with the expectations of women, marriage, and becoming a mother.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t come into vision until toward the end of the story which is too little, too late.

I’ve already stated the convoluted and disorganized story-line, but the direction by Kirk Jones is so transparent and uninspired that you can almost hear him whisper, “Now, look at one another and smile…keep smiling.  Yes, I know it seems like you’re smiling and looking at each other a long time, but keep doing it…”  In the first “Greek Wedding,” you had a glimpse inside what a large Greek family might be.  In “Greek Wedding 2” there is no way any family could act this way.  Every single character is unbelievably overblown that you feel more like you are watching a cartoon than a live-action comedy.  The excessively dramatic expressions make an I Love Lucy episode look like a subtle melodrama.

If you’re a big fan of the first film, my recommendation is to wait for the DVD and not take your time and spend your money on the theater version.

1 Star

 

 

BvS
Superman and Batman have both been a part of the D.C. (Detective Comics, Inc.) since the late 1930’s.  Generally allies, these characters both fight evil-doers with either their superhuman powers or their amazing intellect and skills.  The newest live action film to hit the silver screen is “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” which suprisingly pits one hero against the other due to a lack of communication and Batman believing everything the media conveys.  Yes, the sarcasm begins.  Much time, effort, and energy of both men and the viewer is wasted upon not getting along and lacking having a common goal.  And when I say “much time,” I mean 158 minutes, folks.  That’s 2 hours and 33 minutes of non-stop explosions, close-up fight scenes that becomes dizzying, and constant auditory bombardment that may leave you hearing impaired as you exit the theater.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer, stars Henry Cavill as Superman and Ben Affleck as Batman.  The film gives viewers who do not know these heroes’ backstories all the information they need to understand their sad upbringing.  We witness the slow-motion murder of Bruce Wayne’s (Batman) parents, and get a glimpse into Clark Kent’s (Superman) life on the farm.  So if you’re not an avid fan of D.C. (don’t confuse them with Marvel as true fans will get angry with you), you’ll still be able to follow why they have a few issues and make the decisions that they do. That bringbats us to Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who is generally the nemesis of Superman, but now he takes on both superheroes with a psychotic and frenetic energy, pitting one hero against the other.
To say that the premise is entirely ridiculous is being kind.  It is all action, all the time.  However, just when I want to hear a little dialogue and perhaps a little personality from these two main characters, they do begin to converse.  Be careful what you wish for.  The dialogue that occurs is just as ridiculous as the premise, but at least they are consistent.  There is a saving grace in Perry White’s character played by Laurence Fishburne which brings a bit of levity to the film, reminiscent of the old time 1950’s television series.  There are other comedic scenes, but these are unintentional.  Batman’s Gladiator workout with truck tires and chains really buff him up.  Amy Jeremy Irons is aptly cast as Alfred, but Amy Adam’s talent is superlokwasted in her portrayal of the lack-luster Lois Lane.  There are also a few cameos by characters that I am clueless about, but other audience members seem to recognize them with fondness.  
Casting Cavill and Affleck as Superman and Batman, respectively, is really under-utlizing the talent of these two men.  Were they cast for their looks, perhaps?  If so, they do look great.  They are both able to stand and stare menacingly for prolonged periods of time. Well done. That brings us to the introduction of Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince played by Gal Gadot who is simply stunning physically.  There really isn’t much more than that to judge at this point as her character isn’t really much more than an ally at the end as she attempts to kill the beast who is wreaking havoc on Gotham.
lexEisenberg’s portrayal of Luthor is yet another saving grace in the film.  His intensity and energy suit this brilliant and scheming lunatic who has a grudge against Superman.  Fishburne embraces his role as Perry White, the editor of The Daily Planet and enjoys uttering his “headlines of the day” and his references of the origins of Superman that only fans will catch.  He has fun and it’s obvious which makes it fun for the audience.  If only more of the film could have been like this, it would have at least been mildly esuperdeentertaining.
This film is dark and foreboding with ominous music from start to finish.  The CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) is amazing, but again, it’s non-stop.  This pairs perfectly with the continual explosions and fights, completely desensitizing you to anything that happens in this film. The result?  Boredom.
“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” has an all-star cast that will underwhelm even fans of these D.C. heroes.  It’s prolonged and ridiculous premise, even for a comic book, over-use of CGI and explosions, and lack of any interesting characters, creates total boredom in this very long movie.
For parents wanting to take their kids, please be warned of the PG-13 Rating as there is violence, some gruesome scenes, and some bad language.
1 Star

 

date

DATING DAISY

Starring: Brennan Kelleher and Sascha Alexander

Written and Directed by: Neel Upadhye

It may have been a few years ago, ok decades, since I last was involved in the dating scene, but DATING DAISY reminds me that this concept hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years with the exception of the social media aspect.  The feelings are the same.  Relationship challenges are the same.  And family expectations are (unfortunately) the same. “Dating Daisy” is familiar yet fresh in portraying a young couple’s struggle with who they are and if they want to be together—it’s the story of life.

WATCH THE TRAILER HEREdatee

Michael (Brennan Kelleher), out of the kindness of his heart, has offered to give his ex-girlfriend Daisy (Sascha Alexander) a ride to her family’s home for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. From the moment the two open their mouths to speak to one another, you know that they are totally opposite people—one a little more grounded and the other a bit more in the clouds.  It’s also obvious as to wdateeeehy these two broke up—or is it?  There’s still an attraction there, but is attraction enough?  As the two spend the holiday apart, they deal with family relationships and expectations from Michael’s meddling mother to Daisy’s doting father.  Let’s not leave out Daisy’s sweet and wise grandfather and Michael’s overbearing father. In “Dating Daisy,”  every type of family issue is brought into focus, sometimes with humor and at other times, with heart.

 

The relationshdatemomip between Michael and Daisy is genuine and natural, allowing the viewer to get to know and have empathy for each of them.  The most enjoyable aspect of all the relationships, from this mother’s point of view, is the parents with each of them.  Daisy’s admiration and connection with her father is endearing.  As the two have a heart-to-heart with a hug and mom capturing the moment on her iPhone, it’s a moment that could have truly happened in anyone’s home.  We also see the flip side with Michael and his mother who love one another, but we moms sometimes tend to be a bit of a helicopter, attempting to control more than we actually can.  There’s balance on both ends with the ability to see how outside forces and relationships can be detrimental or counter-productive in life.

“Dating Daisy” is a fresh take on dating and life in your twenties.  Finding reality, balance, and humor in the world of dating is what brings “Dating Daisy” to an entertainingly insightful level.  Kelleher and Alexander’s performances are outstanding with perceptive direction and writing from Neel Upadhye.  You’ll feel yourself pulled into their lives as you relive your own.  And with a dateaesong that will touch your heart, “Dating Daisy” is bound to be a favorite romantic comedy this year. There might even be a lesson there for us parents!

Dating Daisy

“Dating Daisy” will be screening at the upcoming Phoenix Film Festival.  For more information, go to phoenmixfilmfestival.com

 

Check out  datingdaisy.com  for more information about the film.

The Reel Focus Episode 3

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 9.15.02 AM

Wondering about mainstream blockbusters as well as independent gems and what to see?  The Reel Focus will quickly inform you about all of these plus film festival movies to check out.  This week’s episode  highlights EYE IN THE SKY, HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS, and CITY OF GOLD.  In addition, we cover the SXSW Film Festival to left you know what movies worth seeing if you’re in Austin, Texas.

The Reel Focus

Thanks for watching!