Posts Tagged Ashley Judd

Who Do You Think You Are? S2: DVD review

This enthralling series co-produced by Lisa Kudrow and writer/director Don Roos and originating in the UK, follows celebrities as they work with genealogists, historians and researchers to investigate their family histories. It’s heartfelt and uplifting. In finding out about their familial background, the stars inevitably uncover aspects about themselves in the process. Who Do You Think You Are? captivates and educates.

Vanessa Williams [Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives], Gwyneth Paltrow [Iron Man, Shakespeare in Love], country singer Tim McGraw, actress/ talk show host Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Cattrall [Sex and the City], Steve Buscemi [Boardwalk Empire, Reservoir Dogs], Ashley Judd [Missing, Come Every Morning] and Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Lionel Richie all take fascinating journeys to trace their roots.

Tracing her ancestors prior to the Civil War, Vanessa Williams, the first black woman crowned Miss America, discovers trailblazers. Born a free man in 1845, her great-great grandfather married a white woman in 1861 and served in the Civil War. Her great-grandfather served in public office in Tennessee. Tim McGraw researches his pre-Revolutionary War American relatives and finds connections to George Washington and Elvis Presley. An activist herself, Ashley Judd learns about a female relative who labored for women’s votes as part of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Lionel Richie’s great-grandfather served as editor of the Knights of Wise Men, an organization that provided insurance to black men and women in the late 1870s. Gwyneth Paltrow gathers information about her truly disparate ancestors. Rosie O’Donnell travels to Ireland to learn about relatives who escaped the Irish Potato Famine. Her episode proves especially moving.

Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Acorn Media
DVD Release Date: May 1, 2012
Run Time: 335 minutes

–review by Amy Steele

purchase at Amazon: Who Do You Think You Are: Season 2

purchase at Acorn Media

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in the Realm: QUOTES

David: What makes her so special?
Helen: She doesn’t ask me how I feel. She knows.

If Mumbai is about money, then Delhi is about power.
No One Killed Jessica

I opened myself up to life. I appreciated the good, faced the bad, and began to find the things I needed.
–from Lips Unsealed by Belinda Carlisle

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CELEBS: Catherine Zeta-Jones and others can reduce stigma of mental illness

On Monday, Catherine Zeta-Jones’s publicist announced that she’d been hospitalized for treatment of bi-polar disorder. She has bi-polar II disorder which means she has more periods of depression than mania. She’s had a stressful year and external situations take a toll on anyone and particularly those who already have a mental illness. The best part of this is that Catherine Zeta-Jones can provide a high profile example that mental illness is a disease like alcoholism that needs constant monitoring and treatment but shouldn’t mean that people feel the need to keep the person at a distance.

according to the CDC, 1 in 10 Americans reports depression at some time during their lives.

Although Tom Cruise disastrously stole away her true message, Brooke Shields wrote a wonderful book about her post-partum depression called Down Came the Rain.

Ashley Judd has a new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet, where she discusses her battles with depression.

Judd also stars in the film Helen [available via netflix instant] where she plays a woman who hides her depression and has a major breakdown. It’s an excellent performance and quite a good film. I have depression and I thought the depiction very accurate. Although depression manifests itself differently in everyone.

The rich and famous aren’t immune.

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Women’s History Month: some of my favorite films by women

Grace of My Heart [1996]
written and directed by Allison Anders
–Loosely based on the tumultuous rise of singer/songwriter Carole King, Grace of My Heart is a tour-de-force and one of my favorite films ever. Starring Illeana Douglas, Grace of My Heart takes viewers through the music biz from the famed Brill Building to communes and the hip 60s and beyond as one woman strives to find her own voice in a male-dominated industry.

Waitress [2007]
written and directed by Adrienne Shelly
–a charming and heart-warming film about an independent, spirited small-town woman [Keri Russell] determined to leave her abusive husband and make it big on her own.

Monsoon Wedding [2001]
directed by Mira Nair

Away from Her [2006]
written and directed by Sarah Polley
–a graceful love story about a woman with Alzheimer’s

Searching for Debra Winger [2002]
directed by Rosanna Arquette
–documentary on women in film, which includes amazing and very honest commentary from stars from Gwyneth Paltrow to Whoopi to Vanessa Redgrave to Salma Hayek to Charlotte Rampling to of course Debra Winger. It’s great that these women feel comfortable with age but sad to see the frustration and that there still is the issue of great roles for women over 30.

Broken English [2007]
Written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes
— story of Nora [formidable, immensely talented Parker Posey], a 35-year-old who seems stuck in a rut—both personally and professionally. Nora has become complacent and settled at her hotel job. She is beginning to delve into the Bell Jar after years of seeming to know what she wanted and now being at the age where she feels she should already be there.

The Namesake [2006]
directed by Mira Nair
–the story revolves around Gogol [Kal Penn], a mid-twenties architect who has been fighting against his traditional Indian family and heritage. He gets pulled back in by an unforeseen family crisis and it changes his outlook and future forever.

Bright Star [2009]
written and directed by Jane Campion
–wondrously languid, romantic and exquisitely filmed. It tells the story of the tender and tragic love affair between poet John Keats [Ben Whishaw] and his muse and love Fanny Brawne [Abbie Cornish] as told through her eyes.

Come Early Morning [2006]
written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams
–a woman [Ashley Judd] who struggles with alcoholism tries to get her life on track

Fire [1996]
Earth [1998]
Water [2005]
written and directed by Deepa Mehta

scene from Water

2 Days in Paris [2006]
written and directed by Julie Delpy
–an American and a Parisian talk a lot, fight a lot

Girlfight [2000]
written and directed by Karyn Kusama
–focus on female boxers

Somewhere [2010]
written and directed by Sofia Coppola
–a wayward actor [Stephen Dorff] and his heartfelt relationship with his daughter [Elle Fanning]

The Parking Lot Movie [2010]
directed by Meghan Eckman
–three years following the ins and outs of the attendants at a parking lot in Virginia. truly riveting. really.

SherryBaby [2006]
written and directed by Laurie Collyer
–after serving a three-year prison sentence, Sherry [Maggie Gyllenhaal] returns to New Jersey to try to re-establish family ties, including one with her daughter

The Hurt Locker [2009]
directed by Kathryn Bigelow
–heart-pounding thriller about the guys who diffuse IEDs in Iraq

The Kids Are All Right [2010]
co-written and directed by Lisa Chodolenko
–the teenage children of lesbian parents decide to contact the sperm donor and meeting him has implications on the entire family

Please Give [2010]
written and directed by Nicole Holofcener

Winter’s Bone [2010]
written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
directed by Debra Granik
–a teenager [Jennifer Lawrence] searches for her father in dangerous, bleak meth-country

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overlooked DVDS: Bug and Half Nelson

Aggie [Ashley Judd] is a waitress at a lesbian club in Oklahoma. She is all “stay away/ don’t mess with me” tough on the outside and vulnerable/ “I’ll crack at any moment” on the inside. Ashley Judd plays these types of characters with such an innate ability to give the audience something from a dismal character. Aggie has a lousy ex-husband [Harry Connick, Jr.] who has just gotten released from jail. She lost her son a decade ago. She bemoans her “miserable existence of laundromats, grocery stores, marriages and lost children.”

Bug literally crawls under your skin and takes hold of your mind as you figure out what is it about this film. This dim setting is not likable or relatable. At first, it just pricks you, then it burrows.This woman is so lonely that she asks a Gulf War veteran [Michael Shannon] she just met to stay with her? Are we to believe this? Turns out he spent years in a hospital [in the mental ward of course] and believes he was tested on.

The acting and story makes it credible and the film quickly turns into a paranoid vision of terror and oblivion. The sighting of a bug turns into a big cover-up, an issue of trust or consequences and a genuine fear. It connects bugs to the CIA, the military, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Jim Jones Temple’s People! Sometimes funny and sometimes downright creepy and bizarre, Bug is not a film for everyone (the other two people in the theater with me did not like it). I laughed out loud at the absurdity and cringed at the possibilities. It is that effective and completely original.

And Ashley Judd. I don’t know what to say about this phenomenal actor. I love every film she does, every role she takes. She would be a dream to interview. This gorgeous, self-assured woman is able to become the most desperate of characters [please put Come Early Morning on your netflix queue]. She delves in and does not let go. She embodies this icky, questionable woman and makes her complex and layered. Aggie is a survivor.

It is not that Bug is super deep or philosophic or existential. At the beginning I was even thinking “what is going on?” and then bang! It blows up and out and over and it’s fantastic.

Bug is just a satisfyingly good psychological thriller.

buy at Amazon: Bug (Special Edition)

In Half Nelson, first time feature film director Ryan Fleck presents a metaphor for life’s challenges. This wrestling hold puts you in a compromised position and it is difficult to release from it. A drug-addicted junior high school teacher (a subtle and focused Ryan Gosling) forms a strong friendship with one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps). The end result is a somber yet realistic story.

In this role, the talented Gosling (The Notebook, The United States of Leland) turns in a quietly moving, haunting, riveting performance as this intelligent teacher who finds himself stagnated and questioning his impact on society. It is entirely relatable.

Who has not felt that way at one point? Why do I do this job? Do I matter as one individual in the overall schematics of the world? Everyone else seems to be moving along, as one should. People seem happy, settled, and comfortable. The inner-city characters are real. He plans to write a book but never gets around to starting it. His ex-girlfriend is engaged. His parents reminisce about their glory days protesting Vietnam and other issues of the 60s. During a family dinner, the mom even puts on “Free to Be You and Me” while getting drunk and dancing around with her sons. Even his students are more focused than him. Drey learns of his secret double life and forms an alliance. She’s wise beyond her years, being a latch key kid and having an older brother in lock-up.

Epps makes a solid, innately natural first-time acting debut. Fleck interposes quiet moments with quick hand-held camera shots to weave the story. His directorial approach is entirely effective as the ending is left open, allowing filmgoers to leave the theatre in deep thought or in intense conversation regarding the numerous provocative elements within the film-Dan faces the difficulties of making a difference, of advancing one’s life and of doing enough.

Dan is a fully functional crackhead, has a novel teaching approach and is a favorite among his pupils. Yet he has many dark, insular days and darker nights. He is a troubled soul that cannot often get out of his own mind or change the sheets on the bed.

Half Nelson starts slow but is gritty and honest in its portrayal of a flawed individual who strives toward living the good life.

buy at Amazon: Half Nelson


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