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CARS 3 accompanied with Lou (short) review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 16, 2017 at 3:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Brian Fee

Running time: 109 minutes in 2D and 3D

Release date: June 16, 2017

Genre: Animation, Comedy, and Family

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: G

As PIXAR Animation Studios reigns as the leader in animation production, it brings a 2D and 3D animated comedy to the big screen.  It is the eighteenth PIXAR feature film and the third installment in the Cars film franchise, following Cars 2 (2011).  Director Brian Fee, who was once the storyboard artist on the original Cars (2006) and Cars 2, brings back the voices of Owen Wilson as  Lightning McQueen, Larry the Cable Guy as Mater, Bonnie Hunt as Sally Carrera, Chris Cooper as Smokey, Tony Shalhoub as Luigi, and Guido Quaroni as Guido.  This edition brings inArmie Hammer as Jackson Storm, McQueen's new racing rival, Cristela Alonzo as Cruz Ramires, McQueen's trainer and racing technician, and Kerry Washington as Natalie Certain the statistical analyst.  Additonally, several real life drivers and other racing related personalities from NASCAR have cameos, including Chae Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Darrell Waltrip, Shannon Spake, Humpy Wheeler, Jeff Gordon, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Petty, Mike Joy, Ray Everman and as well as the legendary Richard Petty's return as Strip "The King" Weathers, who now acts as Cal Weaathers' (his nephew) crew chief.

The story picks up after McQueen loses his racing title to Jackson Storm, the face of the new high tech and next generation racers.  With the new generation of high tech racers, many question if the famous Lightning McQueen, the legendary Piston Cup veteran, will retire after he endures a terrible crash.  McQueen's sponsor Rus-eze, bought by Sterling (Nathan Fillion), who wants to turn him into a racing brand for auto parts.  However, McQueen asks for a chance to race in the Florida 500 and begins to train with race technician Cruz Ramirez, who always had dreams of racing.  The clash of the new and the old (McQueen and Cruz) is the essence of most of this plot.  It is difficult for McQueen to accept that change is inevitable, and Cruz finds out certain things are fundamentally stable.

Interestingly, this film delves into the history of the car racing world.  It highlights the facts that Stock Car and Formula Car racing origins, from the years of the Prohibition Act (1919 - 1933) inacted after WWI, when moonshine (white lightning, mountain dew, and corn liquor) was illigally hauled by fast running cars.  The word "moonshine" is believed to be derived from the term "moonrakers" used in English smugglers and the clandestine nature of operations of the unlawful Applalachian distillers who produced and distributed whiskey by moonlight driving (without cars lights) to avoid the revenue agents.  The gave American stock car racing its birth by the likes of legendary Raymond Parks who won the inagural NASCAR championship in 1949.  It also, gave the origin to the single-seater series of car racing known as, Formula One (Grand Prix).

As an animated action adventure family film, it central plot is the struggle that plays out mainly through a clash of physical forces and encounters with new ideas.  The small amount of comedy delights and the essential aspect goes beyond the ordinary.  The whole range of comic tactics are from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony, each to disturb, disrupt, alter and change things from what is expected.  The film is mostly fast pace, but relies on sentimental sequences to raise emotions.  This edition may not be the best of the franchise, but the work of PIXAR is captivating.

LOU (Short film)

Directed by: Dave Mullins

Running time: 6 minutes in 2D and 3D

Release date: June 16, 2017

Genre: Animated, Family, Fantasy, and Short film

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: G

With the attitude of how to deal with bullies being relevant, Lou examines a red hoodie-covered fantasy creature with eyes and how it interrupts a young boy's mischievous behavior during school and recess.  The fantasy creature with eyes of baseballs and buttons grinning from inside a school's Lost & Found bin, reprimands a young boy who finds fun in rediculing and tormenting his class peers.  The moral is an honest and important message sent to the younger viewers.




Posted by Gerald Wright on June 9, 2017 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (0)

                         THE 2017 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL

                Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center

                                                        June 9- 18, 2017

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be presented with 21 films and discussions showcasing courageous activists exposing topical and provocative feature documentaries during challenging times.  In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of "citizen journalism", festival organizers hope that the films in this year's program can serve as an inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements.

Now in its 28th edition, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is co-presented by the Film Society O lincoln Center and IFC Center.  All screenings will be followed by indepth discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, Human Rights Watch researchers, and special guests.



Directed by: Zaradasht Ahmed

Running time: 86 minutes

Release date: June 23, 2017

Genre: Documentary in Arabic, Norwegian, Portugese, and Swedish with English subtitles.

Distributor: East Viilage Entertainment release in association with Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution.

Director and photographer Zaradasht Ahmed is a Kurdsih/Norwegian filmmaker. He was born and raised in Northern Iraq.  He states, "My ambition is to let the audience reflect on the human consequences of a brutal reality where all taboos are violated.  With Nowhere to Hide I want to show that we are all part of this reality - war, explosions, victims, terrorism, they affect us globally, and we are all responsible, despite our geographical whereabouts.  Meanwhile, I want to show the human resistance that is growing among these survivors; to show the hope of rebuilding after the breakdown of civilization.  In the end, as humans, the only thing that can help us survive is to believe that the will to build will always be stronger than the desire to destroy."

Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world's most dangerous and inaccessible areas - the "triangle of death" in central Iraq.  Initially filming stories of survivors and the hope of a better future as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff. 

Nori, his wife, and four children find their lives of somewhat normality turned around during 2011.  As a member of a local medical emergency room, working regular hours, and returning home to help raise a family with his wife, now finds himself dealing with the collateral damage from the U.S. invasion against ISIS and suicide bombers.  As ISIS pushes into their region and take control of central Iraq, Nori steps his work to act as a doctor, as the real doctors flee from the hospital.  At home bullets fly randomly from ISIS snipers, and 2014 Nori and his family leave their home in Jalawla.  As Nori and his family travel the region in their vehicle seeking refuge, they witness the destruction.  The attitude of themselves and others to this carnage becomes numb, but his will to help others prevail.  He sets up temporary medical centers to care for the people he confronts and lives with.

What was Nori's original home project of filmming his hospital, family and communty over a five year period, drastically turns into a filmage of himself dealing with war.  It all comes full circle as he and a couple of others return to their hospital, only to find devastation.  This film touches on the refugee issue and the unsettle challenges of war's aftermath, in a first-person's account.


500 YEARS: Life in Resistance

Directed by:  Pamela Yates

Running time: 105 minutes

Release date: July 12, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Distributor: Paladin

Documentarian Pamela Yates has formed a Resistance Saga, cinematically designed to galvanize audiences to fight back when society is faced with authoritarianism and deagogues.  It is long term courageous and strategic film resistance against daunting odds, with a powerful example being focused on the Mayan people (Indigenous tribes of Guatemala). 

The Resistance Saga Trilogy began with When the Mountains Tremble (1982) which introduced indigenous rights leader Rigoberta Menchu as the storyteller in her role to expose repression during Guatemala's brutal armed conflict.  The in her sequel film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011), the poltical thriller detailing international efforts to build a genocide case against Guatemalan General Efrain Rios Montt, with actual filmed forensic case evidence in his prosecution.  In this third film 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017), it picks right up from Granito, providing insight access to the first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of indigenous people.  It is an epic story that led Guatemala to a tipping point in their history, from the genocide trial of General Efrain Rios Montt to the popular movement that toppled sitting President Otto Perez Molina.

The Guatemalan genocide or "Silent Holocaust" refers to the massacre of Maya civilians during the Guatemalan military government's counterinsurgency operations.  Massacres, forced disappearances, torture, and summary executions of guerrillas and especially civilian collaborators at the hands of U.S. backed security forces.  The terror apparatus has benn in existence since the early Spaniard explorations, conquering, and settling colonial rule in South Americas.  However, the repression in the 20th century, specifically in the 1960s and 1970s under the Zacapa program and the Arana presidency, recorded the genocide stages of the Massacre at Panzos, genocide under Lucas Garcia, General Benedicto Lucas, and Rios Montt are the most acknowledged.  It is reported that the deaths are approximately 200,000 Maya peoples and 50,000 Ladino in this 50 to 60 year period.  

The film is strained by repitition of protest scenes, but the focus on universal themes of justice, racism, power, and corruption is very relevent.  Yet, the documentary tells the story from the perspective of the majority indigenous Mayan population in Guatemala, and explores their struggles in the country's growing fight against impunity.



WONDER WOMAN review/editorial by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on June 3, 2017 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes in 2D, 3D, and IMAX

Release date: June 2, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action-Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Adaptation

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Taking statements from Sharon Gosling's 2017 book "Wonder Woman:  The Art and Making of the Film" she determines, Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman sees the hero brought to the big screen for the first time in her own movie, and fully realizes the breathtaking wonder, strength, and grace of such an historistic character.  Sharon Gosling expands that this groundbreaking film will take fans on a voyage of discovery through the world of Wonder Woman.

For the ones who are vague on the Wonder Woman character, (cited bio by wikipedia and public information) she is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics.  The character is a founding member of the Justice League, demigoddess, warrior princess, and Ambassador-at-Large of the female Amazonian people.  In her homeland, her official title is Diana the Princess of Themyscira (daughter of Hippolyta).  The Wonder Woman character was created by the American psychologist and writer William Moulton Marston, and artist Harry G. Peter.  Marston and his wife Elizabeth's cohabitant, Olive Byrne, is credited as being his inspiration for the character's appearance.  Marston drew a great deal of inspiration from early feminists, and especially from birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger.  The character first appeared in All Star Comics # 8 in October 1941 and first cover-dated on Sensation Comics #1, January 1942.  The Wonder Woman title has been pblished by DC Comics almost continuously except for a brief hiatus in 1986.

This film is adapted from fictional drama, and based on the original idea.  It follows the original theme and does not neglect the cinematic opportunities of the story.  The film depicts young Wonder Woman's (age 8 - Lilly Aspell, and age 12 - Emily Carey) origins as it relates that she was scultured from clay by her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and given life by Aprodite, along with superhuman powers as gifts by the Greek Gods.  Her Amazonian training by her aunt General Antiope (Robin Wright) and instructor Philippus (Ann Ogbomo) helped to develop a wide range of extraordinary skills in tactics, hunting, and combat. 

Adult Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) takes the reigns as the protagonist.  But when an American pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the shores of the Amazonian sheltered island located in the Bermuda Triangle and tells of a massive conflict of World War II in the outside world, and Diana leaves her home, convinced she can stop the threat.  The epic plot displays female empowerment with extraordinary powers and abilities, as she exerts a strong moral code with a secret identity.  The story sets the tone as a backstory with the flashback scenio as the basis of the narrative. It shows the contemporary Diana as employee of the Wayne Industries (as in Bruce Wayne aka Batman).  With non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous high energy physical stunts and chases, Gal Gadot an Israeli actress, martial artist, and model is perfectly cast for the Wonder Woman character as she combats the German invasion and mystical villians.  Of course this will set up possible sequels and additions to the new franchise.

As an epic production, this film covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  The elements are elaborate and add an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, along with an overlap of science fiction and fantasy - all designed for pure audience escapism. 

It's a great, fun-filled, action packed summer movie.  Go 'woman power' !!


PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Dead Men Tell No Tales review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 26, 2017 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Joanchim Ronning and Espen Sandberg

Running time: 129 mins. in Conventional, Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3-D, and IMAX 3D formats

Release date: May 26, 2017

Genre: Drama, Comedy, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Reboot, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the fifth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, this film serves as a soft reboot of the franchise. The filmmakers cited the first installment, The Curse of the Black Pearl, as inspiration for the script and tone of the film. Johnny Depp, Kevin McNally, and Geoffrey Rush reprise their roles as Jack Sparrow, Joshamee Gibbs, and Hector Barbossa, respectively.  The film also stars Javier Bardem as Armando Salazar, Brenton Thwaites as Henry Turner, and Kaya Scodelario as Carina Smyth.  The film also features the returns of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann respectively, following their absence from the fourth installment, On Stranger Tides.

Swashbuckling movies have always been exciting going back to the silent era Douglas Fairbanks films of the early 20th century.  This contemporary film is no different when it comes to excitement as Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old nemesis, Armando Salazar, who along with his Spanish Navy ghost crew who has escaped from the Devil's Triangle and is determined to kill every pirate at sea.  Jack, aided by a new ally Carina, must seek the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.  At the same time, he comes across Henry Turner, the son of his former crew member Will Turner.  Henry wants to free his father from the curse of the Flying Dutchman so he can reunite his parents, Will and Elizabeth Swann.

As the film is structured in a prequel format, it also uses the present tense to incorporate the narrative.  It is a high energy big budget tale with non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional 'good guy' heroes and heroines battling 'bad guys' in the traditional swashbucklers on searches and expeditions for lost lands, treasures, and the unknown.  

Johnny Depp plays the eccentric but noble pirate captain of the Black Pearl on the hunt for the Trident of Poseidon. Javier Bardem as Captain Armando Salazar, a powerful and maniacal undead pirate hunter of the Spanish Navy, who was trapped in the Devil's Triangle.  After escaping, he seeks the Trident of Posedon to wipe out all piracy and exact revenge on his old enemy, Captain Jack Sparrow.  Meanwhile, Brenton Thwaites as Hery Turner tries to reconnect with his father Will Turner, as he struggles to break a curse that is preventing him from doing so.  Kaya Scodelario portrays Carina Smyth, a feisty, altruistic astronomer who has a diary with clues that leads her own her journey looking for the Trident of Posedon.  There is also the reprising character Captain Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), the one-legged pirate captain of the Queen Anne's Revenge, former captain of the Black Pearl, and Captain Jack Sparrow's former rival-turned-ally.

Perhaps, this film is more of an overdone romp, but it is mystical and causes great enthusiasm, while being thrilling and exhilarating.  It is excessive in its attitude of producing intensity because of the many elements involved.  It is an elaborate adventure fantasy film that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop, and adds an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, lively comedy, and high production values of special effects.  Yet, the fantasy aspect takes the audience to another dimension and netherworld places with elements of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary that transcends reality.  

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales will appeal to both childen and adults.


KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on May 15, 2017 at 5:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Guy Richie

Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes

Release date: May 12, 2017

Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, and Fantasy

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In a very loosely based tale on King Arthur legends, the legendary British leader who, according to medieval histories and romances, led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders in the late 5th and early 6th centuries A.D. comes a dynamic style epic prequel only acclaimed filmmaker Guy Richie could imagine.  Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclassic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur's journey from his royalty birth, cast off to the streets, and back to the throne.

If by chance you don't know of King Arthur, his Knights of the Roundtable, Excalibur Sword, his wife Guineviere, or Wizard Merlin the Magician, the details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of British folklore and literary invention.  His historical existence is debated and disputed by modern historians, but the sparse historical background of Arthur is gleamed from various sources, including the Annales Cambriae, the Historia Brittonum, and the writings of Gildas.  Although the themes, events and characters of the Arthurian legend varied widely from text to text, and there is no one canonical version, Geoffrey's Historia (completed in 1138 A.D.), which was adapted from such earlier unknown sources, often served as the starting point for later stories of Camelot.

However, this epic costume drama filled with CGI and special effect medieval romps and fantasy monsters that include big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues, battless, fights, escapes, destuctive crises (floods, explosions, (un)natural disasters, fires, etc., is a far-out take on the myth.  This film takes off when the 2 year old child Arthur's (Zac Barker) father Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and mother is murdered, and Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur's uncle, seizes the crown.  Young Arthur, escapes by being smuggled aboard a small sea vessel that winds up on the shores of the back alleys in the city of Londinium.  As Arthur (now Oliver Zac Barker) is forced to make his way as a thief and beggar on the hard streets, he is taken in by a prostitute in a brothel.  

Once a annual challenge to pulling the Excalibur Sword from the stone, that it is solidly secured in and only released by the rightful heir to the throne, young adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) does so.  Instantly confronted by the sword's influence, he is forced to make up his mind to either join the rebellion with a shadowy young woman named Geinevere (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) assisted by Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) or remain a street hustler.  As the tyranny led by Vortigern becomes intolerable, agrees to join the resistance, but he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons, and unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern along with his fantastical montrous demon army - who murdered his parents and stole his crown to become king.

The fantasy scenes takes the audience to netherworld places (another dimension) where events are ulikely to occur in real life - they transcend the bounds of human possibilities and physical laws.  It is a film that have an element of magic, myth, wonder, and extraordinary, appealing to both teenage children and adults.  

KING ARTHUR: Legend of the Sword is a period piece spectacular that includes high production values accompanied by granduer.


TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017 reviews and coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on April 21, 2017 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

                                             TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017

                                                                 April 19 - 30, 2017

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff, in respnse to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods.

Over the 16 years, the Festival received over 10,000 film submissions and held 2000 plus screenings.  The Festival's program line-up includes a variety of independent films including documentaries, narrative features and shorts, as well as a program of family-friendly and student films.  The Festival also features panel discussions with personalities in the entertainment world.  

Recently, James Dolan's Madison Square Garden Company has entered the film festival business with its newly acquired stake in the film company founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff.  In 2014, Tribeca Film Festival has sold 50% stake to the Madison Square Garden Company.  Among the properties owned by the MSG Company are Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre.  This offering the opening night event screening of documentary to the public of, Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and performances by legendary talents Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and others to be held at Radio City Music Hall.  This year has been about dramatically increasing the programming breadth.  Focusing more on relevance and revenue with the closing night film dealing with retrospective, The Godfather & The Godfather Part 2.



Directed by: Chris Perkel

Running time: 123 minutes

Release date: April 19, 2017

Genre: Documentary

Chris Perkel's riveting profile of legendary music mogul Clive Davis spans a remarkable five-decade career, providing an incredible tour of the msot sensational music of the cultural revolution, from the 1960s to the rise of hip-hop.  Bruse Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Santana, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Alicia Keys, Sean "Puffy" Combs, and a great many more artists to Davis.  This amazing film is definitive, fascinating and ceaselessly entertaining proof.

This film examines the life of Clive Jay Davis, born in Brooklyn, New York.  It begins with his birth in 1932 and how he related to his young domestic life.  As a young adult he enters Harvard Law School on a full scholarship and graduated 1956.  Four years later, he arrives at Columbia Recors as an attorney.  In 1965, he was promoted to administrative vice president of the label without having any knowledge of popular music.  Soon after in 1967, he became vice president and general manager, then the label's president.  

In this capacity he pushed the company full speed into rock music, with artists such as Janis Joplin and Carlos Santana leading the pack.  He guided Columbia Records to tremendous success until 1973, when he was fired after being accused of tax evasion and misusing company funds (related to payola).  However, with a reputation as a maker of musical talent, in 1974 he took over the record division Columbia Pictures and launched his own music label, Arista, famous for such acts as Barry Manilow and Whitney Houston.

It brings the audience to Clive Davis' 2008 move to Chief Creative Officer at Sony BMG, after a government investigation of the record industry, where he was fired as president of CBS Records.  Yet, he was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.

Filmmaker Perkel structures his documentary in a bias biographical sense of an amiable man, but in the industry that is "cut-throat" in nature, the portrait is not totally true.  Interviews with various competitors of the music industry, paint a different picture of him.  While amused in their interview shots, these same people see him as a cunning and often ruthless man.  These cutaway scenes are more of story telling shots, whereas the actual "chill footage" with the musical artists give more honesty.  Perkel mixes Lean-in footage with Lean-back footage to help change the Modality of the Experience for the viewer.

The film highlights Davis' annual music bash where every musical talent is invited.  The documentary is a major tribute to an 80 year old man whose successful career spans over 50 years in the music industry.



Directed by: Philippe Falardeau

Running time: 98 minutes

Release date: May 5, 2017

Genre: Drama, Sports, and Biography

Distributor: IFC Films

MPAA Rating: R

The story behind the making of Chuck is a narrative on its own merit.  Screenwriters Mike Tollin and Jeff Feuerzieg acquired the rights to Charles "Chuck" Wepner's life story a decade ago and soon after, prolific film, stage, and television producer/actor Liev Achreiber was approached about the project.  Schreiber, a lifelong aficionado of the 'sweet science', realized his dream of playing Chuck Wepner (known to some as the Bayonne Bleeder), the New Jersey liquor salesman and heavyweight prize fighter who, at age 35, got a chance to fight Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali right after he shocked the world by regaining his title against a seemingly invincible George Forman in "The Rumble in the Jungle" bout in Zaire.

Chuck is as much about Wepner trying to deal with sudden fame as the ultimate underdog as it is about the epic fight 40 years ago when a journeyman brawler, against all odds, shocked the world by staying in the ring for almost the entire fight (15 rounds).  It is not just a boxing movie, but a true story of the rise, fall, and redemption story defying our expectations.

This biograpraphical character study plot-driven production portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction examines this American former professional heavyweight boxer's life, whose professional record of 51 fights was; 35 wins, 17 by winning knockouts, 14 losses, and 2 draws.

The film gives insight  as to Wepner's early life as he was born in 1939 in New York City, son of Delores and Charles William Wepner who relocated to Bayonne, New Jersey.  He learned to fight on the streets of Bayonne, known for the hardness of people who worked the civilian docks and U.S. Navy Yard.  As a youth he was always an avid player of sports.  With limited options for his future that included working as a longshoreman or joing the military, he opted for the latter, joing the U.S. Marines, where he became a member of the boxing team, developing a reputation for being able to withstand punches and becoming a military boxing champion at one of the airbases.

Played with flair and pathos, Liev Schreiber portrays Chuck Wepner, a married man with a young daughter who takes a job selling liquor to the local bars and stores in New Jersey.  Yet, he finds time to take local prize fighting bouts with the Northeast's Club Boxing circuit and earned the title of New Jersey State Heavyweight Boxing Champion during the period of 1974-75.  His epic life shows how his sudden celebrity status of fighting boxing greats such as Ali, Randy Neumann, and Ernie Terrell, gained him recognition by actor Sylvester Stallone (Morgan Spector) to write the script, Rocky.  Along with the newfound status, Wepner succumbs to a detrimental life of drugs, booze, and wild women, while struggling to maintain the only true relationship he's known with his no-nonsense wife Phyliss (Elisabeth Moss) and a straight-talking local bartender Linda (Naomi Watts) with whom he has an undeniable immediate spark (whom he later in life marries).

With a supporting cast of Ron Perlman as Al Braverman, Michael Rapaport as older brother Don Wepner, Pooch Hall as Mohammed Ali, and others, the performances secure a complete successful biopic.

Chuck is an entertaining chronicle of the rise and fall of this larger-than-life legend.



Directed by: Julian Rosefeldt

Running time: 95 mins.

Release date: May 10, 2017

Genre: Drama

Distributor: FilmRise

MPAA Rating: Not rated

From acclaimed visual artist Julian Rosefeldt, Manifesto features two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett in 13 distinct vignettes that incorporate timeless manifestos from 20th century art movements to futuristic genres. 

The narratives draws on writings of Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxux artists, Suprematists, Situationists, and other artist groups, as well as the musing of individual artists, architects, dancers and filmmakers.  Filmmaker Rosefeldt edits and reassembles these artists' manifestos into 13 brilliant collages, while merging the ideas of Claes Oldenburg, Yvonne Rainer, Kazimir Malevich, Andre Breton, Sturtevant, Sol LeWit, Jim Jarmusch, and many more.

The characters and settings are from an achorwoman to a hmeless man, from Pop Art to Dogma 95, as the chameleonic Blanchett gives a tour-de-force performance as she transforms herself like never before.  The settitngs weave together history's most impassionate artistic statements in this stunning and comtemporary call to action.

Cate Blanchett performs these "new" manifestos while inhabiting 13 personas, among them a school teacher, a puppeteer, and a factory worker.  Her performances pays homage to the moving image and tradition of artists' personalities while imbuing new dramatic life into these artists' words.  

These manifestos are not only text which were intended to turn art - and eventually the whole world - upside down and revolutionalize it; at the same time they are testimonials about the search for identity.  With a series of striking monologues, this arthouse drama ultimately turns lines of conventional story exploring to intentional artistic cinematic expression.

Manifesto is emerging in depts by the talent of Cate Blanchett's profound performance and twelve different accents in each of the characters along with the different physical milieus.



Directed by: Dome Karukoski

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Release date: 2017

Genre: Drama and Biography

Distributor: Kino Lorber

MPAA Rating: Not rated

This biopic of Touko Valio Laaksonen, a Finnish (died 7 November 1991) artist known by his pseudonym Tom of Finland, is a detailed story of man who stylized highly masculized homoerotic fetish art.  His influence on the late 20th century gay culture garnered him the title of the"most influential creator of gay pornographic images".

The film takes off during Finland's Winter War of World War II with the USSR.  Lasaksonen (Pekka Strang) serves as a decorated anti-aircraft officer, holding the rank of second lieutenant.  While serving on his tour of military duty he engages in hidden gay relationships with other gay personnel, with the fear of being caught and the threat of being imprisoned or executed.  After the war, he returns home to study.  

However, in his early life, depicted in a short backstory, tells of his middle-class life, raised b scholl teacher parens.  Living in Helsinki, in his spare time secretly started drawing erotic images for his own pleasure. Later on in his life he created a unique style that lack of dramatic composition, self-assertive poses, muscular male bodies depicting Nazi, Biker, and Lumberjack style uniformed leather images.

Still living under the fear of his homosexuality in a post-war Finnish government that threatens his existence, he begins his career in 1956 when he submits his drawings to the influential American magazine Physique Pictorial, which premiered the images in the 1957 Spring issue under the pseudonym Tom, and having coined the credit Tom of Finland.  With the U.S. censorship codes of the 1950s and early 1960s Laaksonen was rendering private commissions, that focused the primary market of gay men with erotic comic books and making inroads to the mainstream art world.  

The film gives insight into the pressure during peace-time Helsinki rampant with persecution of the homosexual and the men around him even being pressured to marry women and have children.  But once he leaves Finland and relocates in California, among the gay community, he can openly be who he is.  

This historical drama is plot-driven and portrays realistic characters, settings, and life situations.  The performances are highly engaging with intense character development and interactions by supporting cast members Jakob Oftebro, Werner Daehn, Jessica Grabowsky, and Jan Bome, along with others, make this a sensitive, yet impactful narrative.


*More reviews to be posted* 

THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 31, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Niki Caro

Running time: 2 ours 4 minutes

Release date: March 31, 2017

Genre: Drama, Biopic, History, and Adaptation

Distributor: Focus Features

MPAA Rating: PG-13

The Zookeeper's Wife is film written and directed by a woman, about an unheralded female herione.  It is story telling the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Antonia and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of Jewish people and their animals during the German invasion and occupation during 1940s World War II.

Jessica Chastian brilliantly portrays Antonia Zabinski, a compassionate and confident married woman whose love of human beings and animals is exemplified by her love of life.  This film paints a richly portrait of a natural that few of us would recognize.  It explores how that sense of natural order imploded under the Nazi occupation of Poland.  Jan (Johan Heidenbergh) and Antonia, keepers of the Warsaw Zoo who sheltered Jews from the Warsaw ghetto, while managing their animals deal with German pressures.  With courage and coolheaded ingenuity, sheltered 300 Jews, as well as Polish resisters in their villa and in animal cages and sheds.  The film uses Antonia's diaries, other contemporary sources, and author of the nonfiction book by the same title by Diane Ackerman to craft screenplay writer and director's film adaptation.

The Zookeeper's Wife is passion of life in all its diversity and tells the remarkable World War II story of how the 1943 Jewish uprising and also describes the Polish revolt against the Nazi occupiers in 1944. The climatic scenes are presented as many cages in the zoo are emptied of animals during the air assault on Warsaw, and the Zabinski family decided to utilize them as hiding places for fleeing Jews. Over the course of three years, hundred of Jews found temporary shelter in these abandoned animal cells.  In addition, close to a dozen Jews were sheltered in Antonia Zabinski's two-story private home on the zoo grounds under the nose of a persistantly sexual stalking Nazi Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), with the threat of son Ryszard Zabinski's life at stake.

Epic and historical in nature, this character(s) study plot presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character developement and interaction is acccompanied by dramatic scope.  It is a period piece that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.

This is a narrative told with grace, empathy, and conviction.  A brilliant character bio-drama vehicle portrayed and led by Jessica Chastain, giving recognition to Antonia and husband Dr. Jan Zabinski under the World War II German occupation of Warsaw, Poland.  The film maintains a high standard of production values and perfomances.  It's pacing, tone , and structure is perfect.  This is an Academy Award winning capable film.  A must see movie!



WILSON review and interview by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 24, 2017 at 8:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Craig Johnson

Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Release date: March 24, 2017

Genre: Comedy, Drama, and Adaptation

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

MPAA Rating: R

From the humorous graphic novel, with the same title by author and screenplay writer Daniel Clowes, comes a story of a mid-live coming-of-age tale.  The focus is on the protagonist Wilson (Woody Harrelson), an over-opinionated middle-age man on a quest to find human connection by way of badgering those he comes in contact with in one-sided conversations punctuating his own lofty discussions with a brutally honest, self-negating sense of humor.

The film depicts Wilson as an irrevocable loner who sets out to find and reunite himself with his ex-wife Pippi (Laura Dern).  The chemistry of these two actors (Harrelson and Dern) ignite on screen as they set out to rekindle their long-dead relationship with their teenage daughter Claire (Isabella Amara), born after the marraige ended and given up for adoption.  It is a satirical adventure that engages many people, as they overcome the opstacles preventing them to reunite with their biological, now wealthy, teenage offspring daughter.  

In an odd series of vignettes, Wilson's outrageous and twisted life encounters those who attempt to engage him.  One such person is a lovely open-minded compassionate woman named Shelly (Judy Greer), whose life is a 'ying' to Wilson's 'yang'.  As Pippi is Wilson's early love interest bonded by their relentless search for their daughter, Shelly is the person that secures his life in the latter part of the film.  Meanwhile, Claire goes through a teenage and adolescent stage coming-of-age scenario.  These sequences bring her to bare a child, and putting Wilson and Pippi in a grandparent situation.

The light-hearted dramedy plots are consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter (with one-liners, jokes, absurdity, etc.) by exaggerating the situations, the language, action, relationships, and characters.  Yet, the serious plot-driven dramatic presentation portrays realistic settings, life situations, and delivers intense character development and interactions brought on by superb performances by a multi-talented cast.

In a lively and informative interview with the cast many questions was answered concerning the production.  Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern both mentioned and agreed, "The more Wilson's (in the world), the better because of his outburst of his truth."  Woody Harrelson added information concerning the hoarded set design of Wilson's apartment by stating, "I collect things in my Los Angeles place and it was easy for me to adapt. However, the drama in this film, is the struggle with him bringing situations of humor and comedy to his life. My character Wilson is unfiltered and it allowed me improvise, because you can catch something actually real."  I asked Laura Dern if she added more personal characteristics to her Pippi character in order to make it as animated and complicated than the script and novel called for?  She replied to me, "I collect parts of my personality.  I have fire and excitement from working with Woody.  I wanted to give the character a voice in her life."  Director Craig Johnson and screenplay/novelist Daniel Clowes explained about the transformation of adapting these literary characters to film.  Filmmaker Craig Johnson commented, "I had read the novel and I could see the movie from the Wilson character......and working with Woody, I could see he had the person down."  Daniel Clowes added; "It was 80 pages of strips, and I also had many different pages.  I sat down and organized it by writing a script, and then gave it to Craig.  And yes, Laura Dern created most of the Pippi character."  Judy Greer as Shelly and Isabella Amara as Claire contributed comments.  Judy Greer mentioned, "Craig's style is calm for the 30 day shoot and he set the tone.  I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but Woody and Craig offered me the script and I felt good about the role after my audition."  Isabella contributed a statement by saying, "The set was harmoneous and fun.  We were allowed to create with the script.  The movie touched on very controversial issues relevant to today."

Wilson is an intricate movie filled with sarcasm and dark humor.  It is a fun ride in "Wilson's World".



NEW DIRECTORS - NEW FILMS review coverage by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 22, 2017 at 7:40 AM Comments comments (0)

                                                  NEW DIRECTORS - NEW FILMS

                                                         (March 15 -26, 2017)

Celebrating its 46th edition in 2017, the New Directors/New Films festival introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging filmmakers from around the world.  Throughout its rich, nearly half-century history, New Directors has brought previously little-known talents like Pedro Almodovar, Chantal Akerman, Hou Hsiao-hien, Christopher Nolan, Laura Poitras, Spike Lee, and Kelly Reichardt to wider audiences.

**  Film reviews to follow soon ** 

Beauty and the Beast review by Gerald Wright

Posted by Gerald Wright on March 17, 2017 at 10:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Directed by: Bill Hoberman

Running time: 129 minutes

Release date: March 17, 2017

Genre: Musical, Fantasy, Romance, Family, Remake, and Adaptation

Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

MPAA Rating: PG in Standard, Disney Digital 3-D, RealD 3-D, & IMAX 3-D formats

In a live-action remake of Disney's 1991 animated film of the same name, itself an adaptation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's fairy tale, is an American/British ensemble romantic fantasy musical epic film.  In this film adaptation, Emma Watson plays Belle, who is taken prisoner by a fearsome Beast aka The Prince (Dan Stevens) in his enchanted castle and learns to look beyond his appearance while evading a narcissistic hunter named Gaston (Luke Evans) who seeks take and wed Belle for himself.

The production development is a story within itself, as Disney began work on the film adapatation of the 1994 Broadway stage musical.  However, with a change of production theory and ideas, in 2011 Walt Disney Pictures having already beginning a new live-action version and remake of Beauty and the Beast after making other live-action fantasy films such as Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella, and the recently Academy Award winning The Jungle Book it would be a better approach to entertain the international audience with an old-school full scale musical accompanied in this new new medium of live-action.

The plot is mirrored from the classic fairy tale, but puts emphasis on a duel storyline as it takes off with the backstory of the vain and pompus French Prince (Dan Stevens) hosting a debutante ball at his castle when a elderly beggar woman (Hattie Morahan, who is Agathe, a Villeneuve village resident and a once beautiful enchantress who watches and manipulaes the events between Belle and the Prince) appears seeking shelter from the cold.  When the Prince ignores her and taunts her appearance, the old woman reveals herself as the beautiful enchantress and curses the Prince by transforming him into a hideous ugly Beast confined to live is a cold unattractive castle.  She also turns his shallow servants into various household objects.

Years later, the second part of the duel storyline, in the village of Villeneuve, a young intellectual girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is bored of village life and seeks excitement.  She is grounded by her eccentric, overprotective and noble music-box inventer father Maurice (Kevin Kline).  Maurice feels he must be protective since the death of her mother since early childhood.  However, she is stalked by the evil vain hunter and former soldier Gaston (Luke Evans) who tries to woo her.  But she finds him obnoxious and repeatedly turns him down.

The duel plots merge when Belle and Maurice are placed in the confines of the Beast's castle, through a series of magical and mystical events **(avoiding the spoiler alert)**.  With supporting cast members; Daisy Duczmal as baby Belle, Rudy Goodman as the young Prince, Jolyon Coy as young Maurice, Josh Gad as Lefou Gaston's flamboyant bumbling sidekick, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere the Prince's bouteiller who has been transformed into a candelabra, Stanley Tucci as Mastro Cadenza the celebraed court composer transformed into a harpsicord, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the Prince's head of household transformed into a mantel clock, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts the motherly head of the castle's kitchen transformed into a teapot, Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe the renowned opera singer transformed into a wardrobe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette the gutsy maid of the castle transformed into a feather duster, Adrian Schiller as Monsieur D'Argue a sly warden of the local village asylum who dastardly cohorts with evil Gaston against Belle in blackmail, Nathan Mack as Chip who is Mrs. Pott's son transformed into a teacup, and Gerard Horan as Monsieur Jean Potts an absent-minded Villeneuve potter, the large international cast add and maintain a high standard of talent in their performances as they share screen time.  Hattie Morahan narrates this fabulous fable throughout the film.

As a epic romantic musical laced with action and adventure, it is positively elaborate. It takes on an historical and imaginative event, mythic, legendary, as it is heroic.  It adds an extravagant setting and lavish costumes, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, high production values, and a sweeping musical score.  With eemphasis on full-scale scores, songs, and dance in a significent way, the musical and dance performances are perfectly integrated as part of the film narrative.  The fantasy scenes transcend the boundaries of human possibilities with elements of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.  Yet, the romantic scenes are affectionate affairs of the heart, that are long lasting and endearing.  In the caper aspects of the film being a thriller, it promotes intense excitement, anxiety, and nerve-wracking anticipation.

Beauty and the Beast, is a widescreen marvel and will be an Academy Award watch!