Wednesday, October 8, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW....KILL THE MESSENGER.....A GREAT FILM

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Movie Review: Kill the Messenger ... a Great Film

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Jeremy Renner is perfect to portray Gary Webb. Kill the Messenger is about integrity. It is a true story about the investigative journalist, Gary Webb, who exposed the corruption that nailed the CIA for being aware of the funding of the Contra war in Nicaragua with drug money. Webb won a Pulitzer for his reporting then was smeared by some obvious and some mysterious sources. He ended up committing suicide with two shots to his brain.
Suicide? How could he pull the trigger twice after he had shot himself once in the brain? Did he expose too powerful forces to go on living? He exposed corruption so decisively that the sources he exposed blocked his ever being able to write again. Webb needed to write to live. Writing was in his blood. Writing the truth, not what some editor wants him to write. Not what the public wants to read, but what he deemed important revelation. Silencing him murdered his spirit.
Kill the Messenger shows the behind the scenes working of newspapers and how they inspire, but can also destroy writers. The San Jose Mercury News destroyed Webb after the jealous bigger papers--the LA Times and Washington Post--became Webb's enemies because he exposed a scandal they should have uncovered . They set out to destroy his article. His writings. His character. His credibility. His discovery of the truth that drug smuggling was funding the Contra War and the CIA was aware of this but looked the other way. His discovery that the CIA created cheap crack cocaine to sell on the streets in the ghettos of Los Angeles. His discovery that the CIA created a drug infested epidemic which destroyed African Americans squatting in ghettos. Though Webb had been awarded the Pulitzer, because of pressure put on his own paper, The San Jose Mercury, and by the media as to Webb's credibility, The San Jose Mercury began to investigate the veracity of his series of articles titled Dark Alliance (1996). When he is told this, he quits, never to earn a living as a writer again. The Chicago Tribune and The L.A. Times eventually vindicate him, but the vicious smear to his character had been done.
According to Wikipedia which published, Gary Webb's following statement, "I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests. So how could I possibly agree with people like Noam Chomsky and Ben Bagdikian, who were claiming the system didn't work, that it was steered by powerful special interests and corporations, and existed to protect the power elite? And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I'd enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn't been, as I'd assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job ... The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn't written anything important enough to suppress ..."
Mike Cuesta's direction of this no frills thriller has your heart aching as you root for Gary Webb and for the poor being manipulated in ghettos by being made dependent on crack cocaine. This film's screenplay is written by Peter Landesman while it is based on Gary Webb's book Dark Alliance and Nick Schou's book Kill The Messenger. Nick Shou was a reporter for the LA Weekly reporter.
The cast is made up of stars in small, meaningful parts. These stars, one would suspect, accepted these roles because of the importance of this film. Andy Garcia, Rosemary De Witt as Gary Webb's wife, Martin Sheen, Ray Liotta, Oliver Platt, Barry Pepper, are a few of the familiar faces who appear throughout Kill the Messenger. And Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb shines over all in a tour de force performance.
Here you have history at the movies which is a joy amidst the mindless onslaught of animated films. Grab Kill the Messinger for a Golden Oldie style of storytelling...that is one with meaning and purpose.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW...A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES....GOBBLE GOBBLE



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Movie Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones -- Gobble Gobble

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Liam Neeson is always a treat to watch. And so he is in A Walk Among the Tombstones. "I have always liked to play loners like Steve Mc Queen and like Robert Mitchum did as Phillip Marlowe," Neeson said on GMA as he explained his attraction to portraying characters with a moral compass. Pity the script of A Walk Among the Tombstones could not have lived up to Liam Neeson's appeal.
In this bestselling mystery written by Lawrence Block , Neeson plays a retired NYPD detective Scudder haunted by demons who has been manipulated in solving the kidnapping of drug king pin Kenny Kristo's (Dan Stevens) wife. This heroin dealer is played by Dan Stevens straight from Downton Abbey as Matthew Crawley. With his weight loss and hair dyed blonde to brunette, he is barely recognizable. But his fine acting in A Walk Among the Tombstones is.
In a library, Scudder meets a young punk, TJ (Brian Astro Bradley) who tears up the screen every time he appears. Bradley is helped by having some of the best dialogue. While this film's dialogue is not the problem, the script by Scott Frank, who wrote the sceenplay and directed this turkey, is. A good pace in the form of a cat and mouse caper is created and moves swiftly, mysteriously through the film.

But in the end as Frank felt a need to accent the character change in Scudder who is a recovering alcoholic, a voice over recites the Twelve Steps of AA Recovery. This distracting, silly voice over ruins the plot like a sledgehammer. This voice over was not needed.
It just blocked the natural flow of this film and its forward movement. We have scenes of Scudder in an AA meeting sharing his story and scenes at an AA meeting with Howie (Eric Nelson), a fellow addict, who introduces Scudder to drug dealer Kristo. These are effective and establish character, but enough already with the AA preaching the Twelve Steps and trying to use as part of the plot. Shame on Scott Frank for ruining a good film.
Also A Walk Among the Tombstones would certainly have been a better film if there were meaningful roles for women. Oh, we have photos of the dead wife Leila Alvarez (Laura Birn) as she is murdered used in the credits and another victim who is kidnapped Marielle Heller. Then again a nurse, Natia Dune, but creating women's roles intrinsic to a plot are an anathema to Lawrence Block and Scott Frank.
Oh where o' where are the women's roles in Hollywood and women directors who would welcome them? The kidnappers are played by David Harbor, who is always convincing, and Adam David. Their gruesome way of killing their victims is by cutting up the bodies and stuffing them in plastic bags. The ending is predictable, but all could have been forgiven if Scott Frank gotten off of his AA pulpit and gotten in front of the lens and looked more closely at what he had created and let it have its own life on the screen.

MOVIE REVIEW. GONE GIRL...TOO FAR GONE

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Movie Review: Gone Girl...Too Far Gone

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Gone Girl is a thriller that exposes the ugly side of a marriage gone wrong. It is a chilling account of a distraught husband looking for his missing wife, Rosamund Pike, who portrays Amy Dunne. Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a spineless, milquetoast of a celebrity husband who is a creative writing teacher with financial problems. When suspicion focuses on him and that he may be involved in the sinister kidnapping or murder of his wife, he gradually becomes undone as you wonder more and more about his guilt. His twin sister Margo Dunne (Carrie Coon) commiserates with him. Kim Dickens plays Detective Ronda Boney who manages to keep cohesiveness to this fragmented film. Dickens holds back her thoughts with cautious facial expressions which add mystery and keep your emotions on the edge. Director David Fincher, known for his direction of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Fight Club, in an interview about his film's male-female relationships said, "The men are not really present." Nick Dunne is not really present in this movie. To reveal any more about this plot is to ruin any suspense.
Much drama is attached to Amy Dunne's disappearance, and in the end this film is like a soufflé gone bad. The plot is made of sharp, manipulative turns. Assumptions are made, then you discover you were wrong as you witness a savage indictment of marriage.
Shades of Presumed Innocent hover over this best seller as does a portrait of mental illness.
Neil Patrick Harris is miscast as a love interest. He is supposed to be in love or in lust with Amy Dunne, but instead of sparks flying in the bedroom, they fizzle on the wall to wall. Rosamund Pike is the girl who has gone or is gone. Her face is perfection. It has a frozen, almost chiseled, look much like sculptured faces with too much surgery, but she has had none. Her looks possess a coldness that is essential for Amy Dunne. Ms. Pike ironically or not so ironically was cast while doing a film in Scotland over Skype. She communicated with director Fincher over cell. Problem was the only cell tower in her area of Scotland was on the top of a hill. Her casting was dependent on cold weather and rare, impersonal technology which director Fincher used to his advantage to cast a cold heartless Amy Dunne.
But it is Tyler Perry who plays lawyer, Tanner Bolt, hired by Nick Dunne who holds this film together. Mr. Perry has a smooth wit and sense of truth that make his scenes flow with humor.
I was disappointed with the conclusion of Gone Girl which makes it appear that writer, Gillian Flynn, ran out of ideas. I ran out of the theater in disbelief of the praise heaped on this humdinger of hot air.
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

REMEMBERING BERRY BERENSON PERKINS, A VICTIM OF 9/11

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Remembering Berry Berenson Perkins, a Victim of 9/11

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Berry Berenson Perkins was the personification of unconditional love.
On 9/11 after the towers fell, I was driving to a meeting to be with my sober family when my cell phone rang. "Carole, sorry to hear about Berry," my friend Heather Mac Rae said. "She was on the American Airlines Flight II when it crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center."
"What? Where are you?"
"New York."
"Get out of there. Gotta go," I said as I hung up. I can still remember where I was -- the intersection of Township and Suede Road in Norristown, Pa. It was as though Berry was buried here. At this red light.
I remembered the love Berry gave to me, to everyone. She nursed her husband, Tony Perkins, who lost his battle to AIDS on September 12, 1992. She raised their two sons Osgood and Elvis. She didn't care about public opinion. She was brave. I wondered if she were in the front of the plane or the back. I hoped the back. From my stewardess days with Pan Am I could visualize the interior of a jet. If she were in the tail, she probably would not have been tortured. I suspected the first class passengers were brutalized in front of everyone to use terror to keep control.
Enough.
I want to remember the good times. When I met Berry. We were acting students with Wynn Handman the director of the American Place Theatre in New York. It was the late sixties. I was a model and Berry was a talented photographer and married to Tony Perkins. Wynn assigned me to study Streetcar Named Desire. I was to play Blanche and Berry was Stella. Wynn wanted us to work together. When we changed outfits in the dressing room, I said to Berry, "I've never touched a pregnant woman's belly. Could I touch yours?" She giggled her infectious laugh. "Of course," and there I was feeling a future infant. A moment one does not forget. Her tummy was so hard.
Then Berry and I went on stage as Tony Perkins and our class watched us do our scene. Tony was directing as Wynn was away. Some of the class members were: Richard Gere (An Officer and a Gentleman), Brad Davis (Midnight Express), Philippe Anglem (Elephant Man), Heather Mac Rae (Hair), Marisa Berenson (Barry Lyndon), Penny Milford (Coming Home), Robert Moresco (Oscar winner for Crash which he co-wrote), and Dennis Christopher (Breaking Away). After class sometimes Berry and I would have a bite.
In 1974, I filmed Stepford Wives and then moved to Paris as I had become the fiancée of Claude Picasso, Pablo's son. Irritated that I had portrayed a Stepford Wife, in 1975, Claude jilted me. When I returned to New York three-quarters of a basket case, Berry and Tony would invite me to their townhouse in the village to play card games. Tony loved games. They became a kind of family and always made me laugh. They didn't drink so I would bring my own wine in a brown paper bag. I just had to have wine with every meal. After all, I was chic. (I became sober in 1980.)
Berry's sister was model/actress Marisa Berenson while shocking pink designer Elsa Schiaparelli was their grandmother. Regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars, Schiaparelli's designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dali and Giacometti. Her clients included Mae West.
Berry's mother was a Countess named Gogo, married to a shipping executive, but despite Berry's heritage, she was down to earth and did not choose her friends depending on their status. While she knew the rich and famous, her idea of a good time was sitting on their terrace of their village townhouse watching the sun go down while playing with her tots, Osgood and Elvis. Today Oz Perkins is an actor and Elvis Perkins, a musician.
One day Berry said to me, "You know when we were kids and Marisa and I would play, she was Queen and I was in her Court." Then Berry laughed her infectious laugh. I would have been in Berry's Court any day. Marisa had it, "Half ass backwards," as my Pa. Deustch mother would have said.
In 1988, when S&S published my novel Flash about a female flasher, Berry invited me to lunch. "I loved Flash and the way you laugh about sex. It's so healthy. Can you recommend any books for my boys to read?" I was flattered and recommended Updike, Anais Nin, Nabokov, Terry Southern. Shortly after this lunch Berry and Tony gave me a dinner party for Flash and invited his agent Sue Mengers.
When Tony was diagnosed with AIDS, in 1992, Berry gave him a party in New York knowing he did not have long. Photos were taken and autograph books were signed and everyone laughed and appeared to be happy yet resigned to his impending death. Little did everyone know nine years later Berry would abruptly join him.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SHOWTIME'S RAY DONOVAN MAKES TV THE PLACE TO BE SUNDAY NIGHTT

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Showtime's Ray Donovan Makes TV the Place to Be Sunday Night

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Showtime's Ray Donovan triumphs over Boardwalk Empire, The Leftovers and Masters of Sex on Sunday night's festival of the best in TV series. Well, we do have Steve Soderbergh's The Knick. But that is on Friday. With all of its colorful costumes and rich period detail not to mention Pat Birch's exciting choreography, Boardwalk Empire has become predictable and convoluted. Masters of Sex is also predictable, but The Leftovers is not.
Still it does not have the pistol like through line in plot that Ray Donovan has. The Leftovers is exciting and wild, but it is Ray Donovan that keeps you hanging on the edge of your bedpost wondering what producer Ann Biderman's writers have dreamed up. Jon Voight as Mickey Donovan owns his character ofRay Donovan's father completely.
We know Voight won an Emmy last season, but what happened to the Emmys this show merited this season? While Voight is triumphant, it is Liev Schreiber who tears up the telly. He has a controlled anger that is menacing. His wife Abs (Paula Malcomson) packs a wallop of an Irish housefrau moved to Hollywood the land of corruption and legal cover ups. "Oh, we must protect the rich and famous and far from righteous," is the show's mantra and it is Ray Donovan who is the fixer. A team of Avi (Steven Bauer) and lesbian Lena (Katherine Moenning) to do the dirty clean up and sleuthing while Ray tries to hold his marriage together and role of Daddy.
In this most recent episode, Snowflake, Ray's daughter Bridget (Kerris Dorsay) has witnessed the brutal murder of her boyfriend, the up and coming cross over singer Marvin Gaye Washington (Octavius Johnson), and Rekon (Kwam Patterson) by Cookie (Omar Dorsey). a dangerous black mobster. She calls her Daddy Ray who tells her not to go to the police, but Bridget's mother, Abs, thinks the opposite and arranges a meeting with her boyfriend Jim (Brian Geraghty) who is a cop in homicide.
Ray is outraged and believes if Bridget testifies against Cookie, he will kill her. Bridget does not testify to this when she is interrogated by the police, but the truth that she was in the car and saw Cookie murder Recon and her lover Marvin, is now known by her mother and her mother's boyfriend. This puts Bridget at risk and the mercy of the gossip of her mother and Mr. Homicide Detective.
Meanwhile Bunchy, (Dash Mihoke) one of Ray's brothers is falling in love with a woman, Patty (Heather Mc Comb), who is pure and the mother of a young whippersnapper. What separates Ray Donovan from the mundane shoot-em-ups is its expose of the sexual crimes of the Catholic Church and the murder of a priest who raped Ray Donovan and his brothers while Ray's father did nothing to stop this abuse. Brother Bunchy is so damaged he cannot have sex with a woman or see this woman's small boy naked. Shades of his former assault at this age resurface.
The fine acting and plot twists keep Ray Donovan head and shoulders above the normal TV fare. It has trumped with Jon Voight and Live Schreiber tearing up the air waves. At the end of this episode, Ray visits a crusading writer, Steve Knight (Eion Bailey)who claims to heal through preaching self-love. Knight, a client of Ray's, has a girlfriend Ashley (Ambyr Childers) who is one of Ray's lovers. When Knight, the smug bizarre scam artist, sees a disheveled, tortured Ray at his door, he invites Ray in and says, "Do you want to tell me about your day?" Ray enters this handsome sleaze balls home to either have sex with his girlfriend or to seek advice as to handle the black mob of Cookie who is a threat to Ray's family.
You just don't know but sure as heck want to know and so you will return next week to this unusual cast of fine actors playing former inhabitants of Boston known as Southies. While Ray Donovan may have begun as a repeat performance of a humdrum TV cop show, it has risen above the boring and predictable to the cream in the crème fraiche in its stunning characterizations of people trying to cope amidst the smarmy values of Hollywood and the damage the Catholic Church has reaped on young boys. Elliot Gould tip toes in for a show stopping appearance as Ezra Goldman, a client of Ray's. Terry Donovan (Eddie Marsen) who has acquired Parkinson's disease from too many blows owns the local gym which is the laundromat for Ray's dirty money and performs some of the finest acting in this show.
Maybe the real enjoyment from watching this lalapalooza is the respect it has shown in casting of Hollywood legends and often over looked fine actors in small, but meaty parts. We have: Ann Margaret, Richard Benjamin, Rosanna Arquette, James Woods, Sherilyn Fenn, Denise Crosby a relative of Bing Crosby and, of course, Elliot Gould.Ray Donovan has three episodes left so it is not too late to tune in and let it entertain you. I assure you, it will.
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Thursday, August 14, 2014

REMEMBERING THE ROBIN WILLIAMS I KNEW

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Remembering the Robin Williams I Knew

He was a friend decades ago, then our lives took different, but parallel paths. A few memories from afar . . .

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While realizing I was two days early for a screening at the King of Prussia Imax in suburban Philadelphia, my phone rang and my cousin said, "I read you knew Robin Williams."
"Yes," I said. "Why?"
"Well, he died."
"No. You know he was one of us." My cousin is also sober. "Was it his heart?"
"They're saying self-inflicted."
"Oh, no," I said, collapsing as I hung up. I had to get home. I had to write about Robin. The Robin I knew. If ever briefly. But I knew him well. Long ago.
I felt that a part of him resented having to be 'on' so much of the time.
It was the late 1970's, those Mork and Mindydays, and we were in Harvey Lembeck'scomedy workshop. Yes, we were classmates. Robin would just jog into our Saturday morning class which had the likes of John Ritter, Marylou Henner and Alana Hamilton Stewart, and strut his wonderful comedic stuff. Then he would leave us laughing and jog out again. He would work his material out on our class as though he was having a tennis volley with words.
One morning, I had the good fortune to meet him, to go to dinner with him, and to become intimate with him for a short time. What did we have in common besides laughing? Cocaine. This was my alcoholic bottom and I was enjoying getting high with the help of alcohol and coke. And Robin was, too. How sad we were.
I remember how insecure he was once the laughter died down. He was sad and I was sad and we shared our sadness together. He was not a funny person when he was not "on." And I felt that a part of him resented having to be "on" so much of the time. To become a success. To be accepted. To be loved.
Several years before, I had dated Peter Sellers and Robin Williams' tendency towards depression reminded me of Peter Sellers who was filled with self-loathing.
As absurd as it now seems, Robin and I performed at the Comedy Store at the same time. I performed with the class, but, of course, Robin was the draw and did his solo standup routine, and was wonderful. Up and coming and out there. But inside tormented. He was not forthcoming with his feelings. In fact, he never discussed them. Neither did I. We were both emotionally frozen with our real feelings buried deep within. I did not know about feelings until I became sober.
For instance, I always thought Robin was handsome, but he felt ashamed of an aspect of his looks.
When I became sober in 1980, I wanted to reach out to him to try to carry the message, but he was too famous by then to communicate with. When he was 12-stepped—that is, helped by sober alcoholic/addicts who brought him to the sober rooms—I cheered inside. I was thrilled for his new lease on life, and the thought that now his comedy would be safe, and he would live a long healthy and, finally, happy life.
Then I read he had checked himself back into a rehab though he had many years of sobriety. 'Uh oh,' I thought. Then I read he had had a heart attack. Not good, I thought. Not good at all.
Sometimes fame makes it so difficult for the famous to cope with sobriety. And very recently I read he was back in rehab again.
Tonight, as I watch news of his passing, I will never forget the joy our class in comedy improvisation had watching Robin Williams work out his comedy muscles; his new material; his generosity in wanting to make us all laugh, while inside dearest Robin was not laughing at all.
Carole Mallory is a writer and actress from Philadelphia. She appeared in The Stepford Wives, among other films. She has written for Esquire, Elle and Playboy and is the author of Loving Mailer and Picasso's Ghost and teaches creative writing.