The much anticipated release of another Quentin Tarantino movie opens this weekend. Called The Hateful Eight the movie features all the title suggests and more. Packed with twists and turns the movie builds to a rip roaring finale. The cast will blow your mind with stellar performances by Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh to single out a few. And the story, it’s so decadent, action lovers will be going back to see it again. A western it’s not, just a rip snorting drama taking place in a past when horseback and stagecoaches were the only transportation. Trust me here, if you like Hitchcock thrillers and screen violence doesn’t make you ill, you’ll walk away talking about the film for months or at least until you see the movie Revenant. Read more
Now here’s a gem for those who like a thriller filled with good acting and a wild storyline. Now on Blu-ray/DVD it’s called Bone Tomahawk a dark western horror flick that will make your day if you like the genre. It may be a little long, but it sure has a big payoff with action throughout and a twisted ending. It’s not your usual horse opera and that’s a good thing. This review comes with a warning: There’s a very ghastly scene in the finale that looks so real it may make you squirm and turn your tummy. Read more
Out of the ordinary, the true life biography of Lili Elbe The Danish Girl opens this weekend. The drama features excellent performances by Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander so look for an Oscar nomination for either or both. The film delves into one of the most talked about life choices of our time involving sex change and written nicely for the screen by Lucinda Coxon. Read more
Excellent acting by the ensemble cast The Big Short takes you into the world of creative finance and how millions of people lost their homes while a select few made billions. Unfortunately it’s a true story with a ‘”little” Hollywood embellishment, but still a must see. Get ready for the down and dirty business of Wall Street where the rich get richer and the middle class bails them out. Read more
One of the more aggressive films about the sea In the Heart of the Sea follows the tale of Moby Dick by Herman Melville, but this time with a twist. Nicely filmed and containing a lot of action on the Atlantic Ocean, the picturesque views become a good portion of the movie. The acting and direction are stellar with Chris Hemsworth playing the lead and a fine support cast helmed by Ron Howard. Read more
One of the most compelling and disturbing films Room comes to the screen with a story so bizarre that it will cringe even the most hardened person. Well-acted Brie Larson gives the performance of her screen acting life in a role that mesmerizes and captivates. Her co-star is just a young boy, Jacob Tremblay, who does a terrific job of acting out a heart wrenching youngster who’s never been in the outside world. This is one film I recommend you see in a movie theater where you can focus on the story and the characters. Read more
This made for television film surprises with very good performances by Nicole Kidman and Tim Roth making the docudrama interesting and compelling. Based on true accounts Grace of Monaco opens sanctified doors of the Palace to show how strong willed Grace Kelly was during a period of isolationism and threats by the French Government. If you like melodramas about famous people, then this is your cup of tea. Read more
Introducing the smallest Marvel Comics character to the big screen, Ant Man, now of DVD and Blu-ray the superhero takes a turn saving humanity. Aiming to equal his predecessors such as Iron Man and Captain America this little giant comes in close to the pack. The comedy and drama are very good, but much like the movie introductory of the character Thor the opening story does get strung out a bit. If you are a Marvel Comic addict, then Ant Man is sure to thrill as it did for the multitudes that saw the newest hero in movie theaters. Read more
One of their best made animated movies Disney/PIXAR ups their portfolio with The Good Dinosaur, an adventure filled with surprises and comedy. It’s a fun family film that features good values about growing up, facing your fears and friendship. The story may be a little familiar for the teens if they have seen most of the animated films in the past 6 years or so, but the youngsters should love the dinosaurs and young Spot. Don’t believe a word of the not so flattering reviews as they’re written by older jaded critics that have seen everything. Read more
The sweet romantic drama Brooklyn features a charming performance by Saoirse Ronan that’s trance-like, captivating the viewer from scene one to finale. Much like former Oscar winning films A Room with a View and Howard’s End we are drawn into film by the era and the characters. Here it’s an fervent era as we follow a woman making a new life for herself. Targeted to a female audience late teens to mid-thirties, the film should have an impact on budding and revivifying women. Read more
Relentlessly exciting the movie No Escape, now on Blu-ray and DVD, puts its audience into a nonstop survival film as a family runs for their life. Just as violent and all-consuming as the tsunami film The Impossible, the only difference comes with humans killing humans instead of nature. The momentum builds so quickly that you’ll find yourself glued to the electrifying film till the credits roll. Even in your home theater you will become so shocked at times by the brutal extremists no matter how big the screen. Get your goodies ready, take potty breaks before you press play and let the ride begin.
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, the low budget The Last House turns a horror flick into an insipid nightmare. Trying to be creative director Sean Cain uses a quick flash back technique that confuses his audience by chopping up scenes making the storyline a travesty. A waste of a good budget, special effects and make up, this horror film isn’t even that good on DVD. Read more
Two fine comedians Simon Pegg and Lake Bell turn up the fun in the film Man Up now playing at select theaters. Their chemistry reaches high levels as they deliver a very enjoyable romance that has a lot of twists to its rewarding ending. Nicely directed by Ben Palmer, one of England’s top television directors, the film’s perfect for a date night out.
Known for her various roles in Weird Science, Kingpin, Sugar babies and Hall Pass, Vanessa Angel is an accomplished talent with a broad body of work. In Trouble Sleeping, Vanessa plays a woman tormented by the memories of her late-husband’s suicide. Her life is further complicated by the arrival of her stepson, who will soon inherit all of his father’s wealth. A psychological thriller with a twisted sense of humor in the vein of the Coen brothers’ films, Trouble Sleeping is directed by Robert Adetuyi and stars Billy Zane, Vanessa, Rick Otto, Ingrid Eskeland, Kale Clauson and Fred Stoller. In this one-on-one interview, Angel reveals the challenges she faced in bringing her compelling character to life.
What attracted you to this psychological thriller?
Vanessa Angel: I was excited when I read the script. Rob (Adetuyi) and his lovely wife thought I would be a really good for it. And it’s so rare that you find a script with a middle-aged woman in the lead. For me, it was her unraveling, that emotionally, there were just so many things to play. But her personality made it appear that everything was okay. I grew up in England, and I used little snippets of my mother for the character. In England, during my parents’ generation, there was a tendency to keep everything in with a stiff upper lip, to give the appearance that everything is great, when inside, there’s a whole cauldron of emotions happening. So l loved the script, which Rob originally wrote as a play five years ago. It was just such an actress piece, and yet the story was so intriguing. It had that dark Coen Brothers humor as well, which I saw when I read it the second time.
What challenges did you face in bringing Vanessa’s character to life? Vanessa: I didn’t have a lot of prep time, and since the casting was so last minute, the people Rob had in mind for Alex didn’t have a window open at the time, so Rob cast my husband for the role. That was actually great because when you’re in a relationship with someone, there are nuances of communication that you have in a marriage that are very hard to create with an actor, especially when you literally meet the day before shooting. So I was hoping that would come out, and because Rick is my husband, we had a chance to go over the scenes at home, which really helped when you don’t have much prep time. It was challenging to hit the emotions and bring in that sense of comedy as well. We shot the entire film in 12 days, so that also presented a challenge. Rick and I have a daughter and we don’t usually work at the same time, so the logistics of being a parent and filming 14-hour days presented an additional challenge.
The dialog is particularly lean and effective. Was it in the original script or did you hone it down during filming?
Vanessa: It was actually in the original script. We did make some changes as we were filming. Sometimes you rehearse a scene when you’re reading it on the page, but then when you actually make it come to life, you change it. The dialog was very pared down and read like a play. I loved the Memet-esque feel of the dialogue. Rob was very open and not married to every word—especially if he felt it wasn’t working. We also made some changes to the final scene. Luckily, we had Roy Wagner as the cinematographer/DP who was absolutely brilliant in making Rob’s vision come to life. Because of the stillness of the dialogue, he wanted lots of camera movement, as opposed to repeated over-the-shoulder shots, which would have made some scenes appear too dead.
The lemon merengue pie reference underscored with subtle wit Vanessa’s need for acceptance in this dysfunctional family. Your thoughts on this?
Vanessa: I sort of came up with the idea. Originally, there wasn’t a reference that the pie had been on her wedding menu when she was married to Charles. I wanted there to be a reason for it to be said. I did a TV series back in the ‘90s called Weird Science, which was a very broad comedy. I always try to bring a little humor into a film, but also make it real. But you can’t be too broad in these situations because it affects the tone. Vanessa is driven by making this poor decision. She slowly realizes the error of her decision, and how she can’t live with it anymore. She’s guilt ridden while trying to keep the appearance of being very together.
What do you think the film tries to convey with the recurring nightmares of Charles trying to kill Vanessa?
Vanessa: That’s a very interesting question. I think, it’s just Vanessa not coming to terms with what she’s done. It’s in her subconscious. Anytime you make a decision you don’t feel good about, it often recurs in your dreams. And that’s how you work things through. I think that Vanessa can’t accept that, and slowly, toward the end of the film, she realizes that she can’t be without Charles.
Dr. GIlbert is an amusingly off-kilter character. Do you believe he helped highlight the film’s unique point of view?
Vanessa: Yes (laughs). We shot with him the very first day. It was when he was telling us Vanessa’s stepson was coming home. He’s so funny. It was the first day, and Rob wasn’t quite sure how the rest of the shoot would go. Rob was concerned that maybe it would be too funny. But it was very real and it felt right.
You have an extremely broad body of work. What do you like about psychological thrillers?
Vanessa: As an actor, any time you can find layers, the objective or reason why someone is the way they are, it’s a plus. I think psychological thrillers give you so much more to play with. Comedies are more surface. So I love to use my emotional depth and sense memories to go to those really dark places. As an actor, you’re trained to really enjoy going to those emotional depths. So you need to access that when you’re doing these kinds of films. It makes you really feel alive and in the moment.
Finally coming to an end, the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2 brings the trilogy to a close. The continuation of the battle to take down President Snow adds depth to the characters, ties up loose ends and shows the future in a surprising finale. Well-acted as usual, the cast has their roles down pat as they begin the final battle for Penem and stake their claim on the Capitol. Ardent followers, mostly female, will be lining up in droves to see this final episode. So if you want to be the first, seek out tickets early. Read more