Archive for category Film

IN THE REALM: women in film on DVD

there are quite a few great films out there on DVD/Netflix. highly recommended. Here’s a round-up.

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Kelly & Cal [2014]
starring: Juliette Lewis, Jonny Weston, Josh Hopkins
directed by: Jen McGowan
written by: Amy Lowe Starbin
rating: A-

Juliette Lewis [Kelly] is fantastic as a former punk rocker turned suburban mom. Kelly’s not thrilled to be so isolated and away from her friends and life in the city. She’s second-guessing being a mom and thinking about her lost youth. She befriends a neighborhood high-school student named Cal [Jonny Weston]. A bond develops between the two over their love of music and art. It’s sweet and genuine.

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Hellion [2014]
starring: Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins
written and directed by: Kat Candler
rating: B+

This one is dark, harsh and sad with outstanding performances by Aaron Paul [Breaking Bad] and Juliette Lewis. It’s about a teenage boy [an impressive Josh Wiggins] who’s behaving badly after his mom died. Such awful behavior that he’s jeopardizing his younger brother as well.

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Lucky Them [2013]
starring: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church
directed by: Megan Griffiths
written by: Emily Wachtel and Huck Botko
rating: A

In a stand-out performance Toni Collette plays the superbly flawed GenX music critic Ellie Klug. Ellie’s still figuring it all out. She hooks up with artists she interviews. She’s messy. She’s unapologetic. And it’s absolutely fantastic. As a music critic I could see myself in this character. Her editor [Oliver Platt] assigns her a story about her ex, a renowned musician who disappeared a decade ago. She takes along a strange old friend Charlie [Thomas Haden Church] who plans to film a documentary about her search for the elusive Matthew Smith [Johnny Depp]. It’s funny, smart, moving and one of the best films I’ve seen about music journalism in a long time. At one point, Charlie and Ellie are talking about how it’s impossible that Charlie doesn’t like music. She says that she’ll play him music at her place. He admits that there is one Canadian artist he likes.
Ellie throws out a few artists like Rufus Wainwright, as she’s all about alternative music. Turns out it’s Bryan Adams.

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Maidentrip [2013]
directed by: Jillian Schlesinger
rating: A

Just see this inspirational documentary about a brave teenage girl, Norwegian Laura Dekker, who at 14 sets out to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. It’s filled with a lot of footage that Laura shot by herself on the boat. Also interspersed with some interviews and her background into how she got into sailing. She’s a fun teenager. When she lands in one country she colors her hair from blonde to red. She meets cool people along the way, makes stops in beautiful places like Cape Town, St. Maarten, the South Pacific islands and Australia. She enjoys her solitude and grows up out on her own. A beautifully edited must-see documentary that shows just what girls can do when given the opportunity.

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CHOICE QUOTE: Dom Hemingway

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“misfortune befell me.”
–Dom Hemingway

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throwback thursday IN THE REALM: 2007 interview with Claire Danes

Youth, beauty, it all seems so meaningless now.
–Lamia [Michelle Pfeiffer]

“Hi Guys! Are you freezing? It’s so cold in here,” Claire Danes exclaims as she wraps her vintage jacket about her lithe frame. The jacket is tan which complements her long, honey blonde hair and it has cool orange swirls on it that gives it flair. Not that Ms. Danes needs any. She wears jeans, a gray shift and great clunky stone rings on her fingers. Actually, I take note of three on one finger.

She wraps her legs under her and sits down, bending forward, with a smile, to speak
about her latest film, Stardust, at a local Boston hotel a few weeks ago. Known for her roles in Romeo and Juliet, the summer’s very moving Evening, Shopgirl, The Family Stone, Les Miserables and forever as Angela Chase from television’s My So-Called Life, Danes will makes her Broadway debut in Pygmalion this fall.

Stardust
is a wonderful, if sometimes goof-ball, fantasy film. It’s often Shakespearean in tone: think Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Princess Bride. This delightful escape relishes in clever and witty dialogue, off-beat, quirky, layered characters, unexpected moments and thrilling, dream-like sequences. Danes finds herself in good company: Michelle Pfeiffer, as an unattractive, deliciously wicked witch with piercing eyes who seeks everlasting beauty and youth brings an exuberance and fervor to her character. Robert DeNiro, in really not that much of stretch considering the Meet the Parent films, plays a cross-dressing pirate. Adding to the fun: British actors Jason Flemyng, Sienna Miller [nearly unrecognizable] and Charlie Cox. Danes plays a star, Yvaine, who fell to the ground and wants to go home. Who wouldn’t love this film and this role? A star personified! And Evie is happy but also a bit pensive being a star. You’d think she would be conceited and powerful but she’s at times insecure and very sweet. An endearing, bright-eyed gentleman named Tristam [Cox] travels across the barrier to this “forbidden” but special and magical land and finds Evie. Together they go on an amazing journey which, naturally, becomes one of self-discovery. Stardust really charms, remaining unique while it addresses: age/youth, beauty, love, and destiny with all the magic, intrigue, adventure and humor of any smart film.

What did you like about this project?

Claire Danes: “I loved the story. It’s charming and engaging. The dialogue is witty and wry and Evie has a trajectory. She changes which is appealing. She is knowing and wise because she’s ancient but unbelievably naïve.”

What do you like best about acting?

Claire Danes: Laughing: “The costumes are fun. I really like the challenge of imagining what it is to be another person and exercising empathy and stretching the imagination.”

What do you do for fun?

Claire Danes: “walk my dog, draw [takes life drawing classes in down time], dance.”

Do you think you will always live in New York?

Claire Danes: “NY is home to me. I travel constantly for work.”

What is the best part of working on this film?

Claire Danes: “The rewarding part of this movie is working with Charlie [Cox]. He’s a special guy—appealing, honest, expressive and great person.”

What attracts you to a role?

Claire Danes: “exploring new territory and new genres. Characters with dimension and complexity and who undergo change. And grow and transform. Usually women exist to facilitate change and growth in male characters.”

What are some of your favorite films?

Claire Danes: “Waiting for Guffman, Sophie’s Choice, and I know everyone says it but, Citizen Kane.”

What are some favorite films of your own?

Claire Danes: “Romeo and Juliet, Stealing Beauty, Shopgirl and Brokedown Palace.”

Originally published in The Harbus, the Harvard Business School student newspaper.

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: filmmaker Jordan Brady [I AM ROAD COMIC]

“A real road comic works in cities that even mapquest doesn’t know.” —Oni Perez

“I should call myself four market Norton. I’m great in Boston and Cleveland. I do good in Phillie, New Jersey.” –Jim Norton

“I’ve been living out of a suitcase for over a decade.” –Nikki Glaser

“There’s something about drunk women. They love me.” –Alonzo Bodden

Several years ago, filmmaker Jordan Brady put out the documentary I Am Comic which illuminated the realities of being a stand-up comic.After being offered an out-of-state stand-up gig, he decided to make I Am Road Comic in order to document the costs of doing a road gig. He teamed up with his friend Wayne Federman and they traveled to the site. Interspersed throughout Federman and Brady’s experience on this stand-up gig are interviews with a variety of comics about life on the road. The success of I Am Comic allowed Brady a larger pool of comedians from which to cull interviews this time around. Since making I Am Comic, Brady’s met a lot more comics and could bring different voices and representation from the comedy world to the screen in I Am Road Comic.

I spoke with Jordan Brady by phone last week. We’ve been twitter friends for a while since I watched/discovered I Am Comic. We started the conversation by talking about interviews by phone vs. Skype. I said I was hesitant to interview a band on Skype because I didn’t want anyone to see me and the delight that Jordan is, he replied: “I’ve seen your avatar, you’re a pretty woman. Why don’t you show it off.” Very sweet.

Amy Steele: After doing I Am Comic what made you decide to do I Am Road Comic?

Jordan Brady: The success of I Am Comic led comedians that book shows—there’s this new trend that comedians often book their own nights at bars especially—they brand their own show. They mistakenly thought I was an active stand-up comedian because of I Am Comic. When I was asked to do a show. At first I said “no, no, no I’m a filmmaker now.” They said, “just come and do a set.” Finally I said yes. They booked me and I said I don’t have 45 minutes. I figured it would be a great documentary.

Jordan Brady Headshot

Amy Steele: So you were a stand-up a long time ago.

Jordan Brady: 20-something years ago I stopped but I’d started as a stand-up comic when I was 18 and did the road for 14 years. Colleges. Even though I knew this would be a good story of being on the road and I would take my good friend Wayne Federman with me, I knew it wouldn’t be the crux of the documentary. The meat of it would be the newer guys like TJ Miller, Marc Maron. The people that have rose to prominence in the last five years. People like Doug Benson and Marc Maron I’ve know for 30 years but TJ Miller, Maria Bamford, Jen Kirkman I met by going to clubs and they said they loved the movie. I Am Comic paved the way for these interviews in I Am Road Comic.

Amy Steele: What was your goal in making this? What’s the difference between I Am Road Comic and I Am Comic?

Jordan Brady: Economics was the difference. I was squeezing 80 comedians into 80 minutes. This time I wanted to approach it gorilla-style, as just me and a camera. Me on the road. I had to film it and also remember my comedy material.

With I Am Road Comic I wanted to specifically point out low-level road comedians and how you have to be so cost-effective. The only thing I knew was I was going to keep a tally of the expenses. For a gig you get a couple hundred bucks per show which is decent money for a bar gig. As soon as I had to buy a plane ticket I would only break even.

Amy Steele: How did you decide who to interview and how did you get people involved?

Jordan Brady: Less people because I realized if I had less people they’d get more screen time. I wanted to get more in-depth. There were a lot of old white guys in I Am Comic and I think the world has seen its share of old white comedians. I tried to get more females and I tried to get more minorities. A comic is a comic whether they’re a man, a woman, straight, gay, black, white, Puerto Rican. I don’t delve into that.

But I wanted younger hipper guys who are more relevant. Doug Benson and Marc Maron put out a couple of podcasts every week. I wanted to talk to comedians who were more personal in their material rather than jokey jokers. I wanted comedians that were honest in their material and their comedy was based on life experiences and based in reality. Some guys are road warriors like Alonzo Bodden. I think he works 45 weeks a year. Nikki Glaser is kind of a throw-back to the old-school road comics. There are only two guys who are famous for being comedians—Louis C.K.—but it took a television show to make him famous. Jerry Seinfeld played himself on Seinfeld. But until they had a scripted vehicle on television it’s hard to make it as a comedian.

It takes a series– and of late podcasts– to put people on the map. And radio is still big in the Midwest. If I had a thesis it was how relevant was the road to being a comedian today. The fact that Seth Milstein took a bus for 16 hours to perform his first road gig—and he wanted to be in a documentary—the answer was yes.

if you enjoy my interviews please consider donating so I can keep doing what I’m doing. Every dollar helps. Make a Donation button at right on my site.

purchase I Am Road Comic

i am road comic

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Choice Quote: Jessica Chastain

on her upcoming film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Chastain told The Wrap:

Chanel - Front Row - PFW F/W 2013

“I don’t mind if the character is a small character, but I would just like her to have a journey in the film. Sometimes the characters are just there as a prop to further the man’s story. The great directors I’ve talked to, I’ve said listen, I don’t mind playing a woman that is a tiny part, but how does the story affect her? What can I play in the end that’s different from the beginning? Otherwise, it doesn’t make sense, because it’s just like being a prop.”

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Choice Quotes: Zoe Kazan

Zoe Kazan

from an interview with The Frisky, August 6, 2014

on being a woman and a screenwriter in Hollywood:

“Sure, I think it’s difficult to be a woman in Hollywood, period. There is a glass ceiling, of course, but I also think it’s just a more slippery ladder for executives, for writers, for directors, especially for female directors, and for actresses, too. It’s not an easy world to be in, so you have to sort of be your own champion. For me, writing is an important part of how I keep myself sane, essentially, and I feel lucky that people have given me the opportunity to have my work produced, but I would do it even if no one did that. It’s sort of my outlet.”

on being a feminist:

“I think that the [negativity associated with the] label discourages some women from calling themselves that. I think saying that you’re a feminist is a little bit like saying that you’re a humanist, because what it’s really about is equal opportunities and equal thinking about genders being only a part of your identity rather than something that would define you and define your character. … I had a hard time when I was younger sort of reconciling my feminism and my femininity.”

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book review: The Drop

the drp

The Drop by Dennis Lehane. Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks. Mystery/Thriller. Paperback. 224 pages.

Fox Searchlight asked Dennis Lehane to adapt his short story “Animal Rescue” into a screenplay for the feature film The Drop starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. Lehane was a staff writer for the magnificent The Wire and currently is a writer/producer on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. However, this didn’t appease Lehane as he decided to then write a novel based on the screenplay. A ploy for more money that he doesn’t need or he felt he had more he wanted to elaborate on in book form. As I read The Drop, I envisioned Hardy, Rapace and Gandolfini. Not sure if that’s good or bad.

Though mystery/thriller definitely isn’t my go-to genre [I prefer literary fiction, contemporary fiction and memoir] I enjoy reading a thriller from time to time. I read Shutter Island by Lehane knowing that the film version would soon be out. I decided why not read this one too before the film which features James Gandolfini in one of his last performances.

As with other novels, Lehane knows the back streets and neighborhoods of Boston. He painstakingly creates these sad, authentic and stuck characters. Lehane depicts Boston and the people who live in the city with love, pride and truth.

“The traffic had thinned considerably as they drove past Harvard Stadium, first football stadium in the country and yet one more building that seemed to mock Marv, one more place he’d have been laughed out of if he’d ever tried to walk in. That’s what this city did–it placed its history in your face at every turn so you could feel insignificant in is shadow.”

A few days after Christmas, forlorn bartender Bob Saginowski rescues a beat-up and abandoned pit-bull puppy from a trash can. In doing so he also befriends an enigmatic, troubled woman named Nadia and the two become friends through caring for the puppy. Bob works at his Cousin Marv’s bar which is a drop for some Chechens. That means it’s a safe spot for them to stash cash. Marv once ran with a gang of small-time hoodlums but since lost his bar to the Chechens. His name might be on the bar but they run the joint.

“Bob knew something was a little off about Nadia–the dog being found so close to her house and her lack of surprise or interest in that fact was not lost on Bob–but was there anyone, anywhere on this planet, who wasn’t a little off? More than a little most times. Nadia came by to help him with the dog, and Bob, who hadn’t known much friendship in his life, took what he could get.”

When the bar gets robbed, Bob and Marv set out to hunt for the missing money and become entangled with a curious police offer who attends the same church as Bob, some hapless low-level criminals, the dog’s original and creepy owner and the angry Chechens. There’s a fine line connecting every character to criminal activity. It’s dark.

You might want to read this before you venture out to see the film which opens in theaters September 12 if you’re the kind of person who likes to read the book before the film although in this case the film came first which confuses everything.

RATING: ***/5

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Harper Collins.

purchase at Amazon: The Drop

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