FILM

SHE'S COMING UNDONE AND HE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT: 'LAGGIES' AND 'WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD'
WOMEN going through existenial crises is the theme of two films opening in U.S. theaters today. In Lynn Shelton's romantic comedy, “Laggies,” Megan (a well-cast Keira Knightley) is 28 and has not much to show for it since she graduated high school. Reality dawns as she prepares to attend her 11-year high school reunion. Lest mediocrity clump down and swallow her whole, she takes some drastic measures and is aided and abetted by 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz, also well-cast) who, after all, owes her elder. The ensuing fallout is delightful and amusing, if not always satisfying. Yet an unapologetic chick flick. A chick flick of a wholly different temperament is “White Bird in a Blizzard.” It is based on the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke. Sensitively directed by Gregg Araki and his biggest film to date, it is engaging but also fails to satisfy as one wants. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/10/shes-coming-undone-and-he-has-nothing.html


DIM DESPITE STAR POWER: 'A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES' AND 'THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU'
A private detective is in search of a killer, while an eccentric family mourns the death of its patriarch. Two films with high-wattage star power – middling efforts, both – open in U.S. theaters day. “A Walk Among the Tombsones,” is based on the novel of the same name by Lawrence Block. The crime drama stars Liam Neeson as an NYPD policeman-turned-private detective. Matthew Scudder is in search of the killer of a woman. “A Walk Among the Tombstones,” directed by Scott Frank, who also wrote the screenplay, doesn't really offer any surprises. Here is a troubled man doing his usual good job with some usual roadblocks, challenges, nonsense and mendactiy. What sets it apart, however, is the casting of LN. In fact author LB likes the actor in this role.Alas, the presence of Jane Fonda, Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Tom Olyphant namely, do not raise “This Is Where I Leave You.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/09/dim-despite-star-power-walk-among.html


EXPENDING A LOT OF ENERGY TRYING TO SHOOT SLY STALLONE, 'THE EXPENDABLES (3)' ONE
SYLVESTER “Sly” Stallone, welcome back to the top. It's official with “The Expendables 3,” opening today in U.S. theaters, headlined by and co-written by himself. The film – not high cinema nor aspiring to it – is purely an action flick as is its predecessors. Action film fans will likely be in heaven, too, with this entry that follows the now-familiar group of mercenaries of the film's title. On this assignment, the specialists are tasked with keeping separated a Somali warlord from bombs he's bought from one of their own – a former co-founder no less, previously thought dead. (See trailer below). SS and cast have been on the promotional grind the last week or so, burning up the late-night talk show circuit and other venues. Last night, DuJour magazine cover boy SS attended the magazine's Summer 2014 issue cover party at Provocateur, a hotspot in the Meatpacking District section of Gotham. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/08/expending-lot-of-energy-trying-to-shoot.html


INDOMITABLE ROGER EBERT GIVES 'LIFE ITSELF' TWO THUMBS UP
MUCH of the beauty of “Life Itself” is that Roger Ebert was involved in its making up to his death last year. In a way, it is an “as told by” work. "Life Itself" is based on the film critic's 2011 autobiography, “Life Itself: A Memoir.” It is reverently, but not obsequiously, directed by Steve James. SJ came to public notice in part because of RE's championing of the former's “Hoop Dreams.” “Life Itself,” which had its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, is a film for moviegoers and those drawn to thoughtful and largely balanced film criticism. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/07/in-life-itself-roger-ebert-gives-two.html


'THINK LIKE A MAN TOO' LEAVES ITS SOURCE MATERIAL FOR LAS VEGA$; 'JERSEY BOYS' LEAVE NEWARK FOR THE TOP
IT'S summertime and the livin' is easy … Fasten you seatbelts, Dear Readers, because this probably won't be the last time you read that line on these pages. Officially, summer commences tomorrow morning, but for all intents and purposes ... The catchphrase is my version of, “It is what it is.” Speaking of which, “Think Like a Man Too.” The sequel to “Think Like a Man,” which was inspired by Steve Harvey's delightful, delicious, damning best-seller, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” opens in U.S. theaters today. In the spirit of full disclosure, Yours Truly has not seen this film (scheduling conflict) from pretty much the same team as the first one. However, I have seen a film's worth of trailers. My reportback is that “Think Like Man Too” is not a sequel of the “The Godfather Part II and Part III” variety. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2014/06/think-like-man-too-leaves-its-source.html


CAREERISTS IN 9TH ANNUAL NYC MENTAL HEALTH FILM FESTIVAL
WITH a detached eloquence, Stephen Fry recounts a suicide attempt after several performances of a play in London’s West End. The British actor-comedian discloses this incident in the documentary, Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive. The 2006 Emmy-winning film and three others that address aspects of mental disorders are part of the 9th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival. The one-day Brooklyn festival is Sunday (5 May). The theme of the 9th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival is “Mental Health Recipients Who Have Excelled in Their Careers and Lives.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/05/careerists-in-9th-annual-nyc-mental.html


TFF LAST DAY: IN ‘NORTHWEST,’ CRIME IS CHOSEN WAY
MICHAEL Noer found the leads in his latest film, “Northwest,” through Facebook. “I got this call from this woman who said I have two sons who might be right for the roles.” The young documentarian, who continues his foray into the genre of feature-length crime films following his well-received prison drama, “R,” was looking for brothers around 17 and 18 who were one year apart in age. “These two guys came in,” he explained after the third screening of the film at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, “and they were arguing and pushing each other. One didn’t have directions and the other had a hangover. We just watched them, and then they said ‘so, what do you want us to do’? I told them that had done it; I want you in the film.”
The northwest of the title is a crime-ridden neighborhood of Copenhagen where brothers Casper and Andy, played by Gustav Dyekjær Giese and Oscar Dyekjær Gies, respectively, live. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/04/tff-last-day-in-northwest-crime-is.html


TFF DAY 11, 'WHY HE IS THE GREATEST: 'THE TRIALS OF ... ALI'
WATCHING the riveting “The Trials of Muhammad Ali,” my mind kept returning to “42.” It’s unfortunate that tonight is the final screening of the Ali film during its world premiere run at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Most viewers won't see it until it premieres on PBS next year. It has one strong similarity to “42,” the film about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. (http://www.ow.ly/jZyqh) Both provide a glimpse of the fight of black Americans for basic human rights in this country. Both MA and JR had a hellish time. The former did not have to fight for the right to participate in his chosen sport, based on his skin color. His fight was over freedom of religion, self-determination and principles, as well as a fight to be called Muhammad Ali and not Cassius Clay, once he had repudiated that name. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/04/tff-day-9-why-he-is-greatest-trials-of.html


MATTHEW MCC, THE ACTOR. HIS NAME AND FILM ARE 'MUD.'
IT’S as if a few years ago Matthew McConaughey went to his agent, Jim, and the conversation went something like this … MM: I want to be an actor.
(Staring at MM incredulous) JIM: What’s with you guys? You come to this town hungry. HUNGRY, sayin' you wanna make it in pictures, to see your name in lights. Then you get there and you wanna be an actor. Everybody wants to be Laurence friggin' Olivier ... Do you know how many actors there are in this town working for tips at Spago?
MM: I know. I know. That’s not what I want. I want real, solid roles. I wanna make movies that mean something to me, something I can sink my teeth into. I want something that not any pretty face in town can do. Roles that won’t land me on the cover of People magazine as the Sexiest Man Alive. Not that I’m not grateful, Jimmy. I just wanna do some work that I can be proud of.
(Getting up and walking over to MM and putting his hand on his shoulder) JIM: OK, my friend. I got a coupla ideas. I think we can make you into an actor. But don’t come cryin' to me if you don’t like it! Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2013/04/matthew-mcc-actor-his-name-and-film-are.html


'SKYFALL': OUT WITH OLD, IN WITH NEW IN BEST OF BOND
WHETHER they are good, bad or otherwise is quite beside the point. There are films that one sees because they are an event. That is the case with the James Bond series, filmdom’s continually longest-running franchise. It is on the wave of this sentiment that Yours Truly took herself to see “Skyfall.” I expected a good ride, no matter how much credulity had to be dispensed with in the process. Of course, fans of the film always look forward to the prologue – the on-the-edge of-your-seat, by-the-seat-of-your-pants, pee-in-your-pants opening action sequence. The opener does not disappoint. “Skyfall” is a good ride and, surprisingly, rather quite a bit more. “Skyfall” is simply the best film in the franchise. If there is one better, that distinction goes to “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” with George Lazenby as Bond after Sean Connery’s first retirement from the role. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/11/skyfall-out-with-old-in-with-new-in.html


A STRING OF DISCORDANT NOTES IN 'A LATE QUARTET'
"A Late Quartet" is interesting on several levels. It has going for it its musical aspect. European classical music along the lines of Beethoven’s arduous Opus 131. A glimpse into the process and interior lives of the players in the form of top musicians who probably studied at the Julliards, Berklees and Oberlins of the world. New York is apt as the setting of this rarefied milieu in that it is one of the world’s most superlative cities, home to the highest of high culture and the lowest of low culture. Hanging in the air like a resounding note, threatening the demise of the fictional Fugue String Quartet, is the medical diagnosis at the center of “A Late Quartet.” If the diagnosis won’t be the foursome's undoing though, surely it will be the drama surrounding these very fine, refined folk, for it descends to the level of reality TV, albeit without a surfeit of cussing and coarseness. Perhaps these characters can pull off petulance with aplomb because they are played by real acting talent. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/11/a-string-of-discordant-notes-in-late.html


IN ‘CLOUD ATLAS,’ WHAT ONE DOES TODAY LIVES ON ...
“CLOUD Atlas” will likely go down as one of the year’s most provocative, misunderstood and critically acclaimed films. It reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. The sprawling work, with three directors and a big-name cast headed by Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, opens in North America today. Some critics love it with all capital letters and bold type. Others have called “Cloud Atlas, ” directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, laughable, as well as well-meaning but ultimately a mess. “Confusing,” pronounced a film companion of Yours Truly whom I ran into last night right after she sat through its almost three hours (164 minutes for North America; 171 for the UK). Incidentally, there is no intermission. “It started out in the present-day,” Companion said, her eyes glassy with bewilderment or suffering the effects of sitting in a dark room looking at a bright screen for what’s considered nearly half a regular work day in the United States. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/in-cloud-atlas-what-one-does-today.html


'BAD 25' IS ABOUT THE MAN AND HIS MUSIC, NOT THE MADNESS
SPIKE Lee had a mandate from both the Michael Jackson Estate and Sony Music Entertainment: focus on the music and the art. He followed through, and the result is “Bad 25,” the documentary that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's iconic “Bad” album. It recounts the making of the album one track at a time. While “Bad 25” does not focus on the personal problems and peccadilloes of the King of Pop, his eccentricity comes through. For it is impossible to be that talented and not have a few oddball habits, and MJ – God love ’im – had his share. In his defense, however, he was at the time of the "Bad" recording trying to top (or come close) “Thriller,” which is still the biggest selling album of all time. Imagine the pressure! Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/bad-25-is-about-man-and-his-music-not.html


LAST DAY NYFF50: 'FLIGHT’ BRINGS IT TO A CLOSE
“YOU’LL never have to buy another drink for the rest of your life,” a friend (John Goodman) assures “Whit” (Denzel Washington). For about 15 minutes that looks to be true for commercial pilot William “Whit” Whitaker who safely lands a malfunctioning airplane, saving many lives in the process. He’s an immediate hero with all of the media buzz and other trappings – that is until an investigation begins into a part of his past that calls into question his judgment. Not only are those drinks drying up – and drinking is the last thing Whit wishes to do at the moment – prison may be in his future unless his innocence can be proved. Once praised, he is now being pilloried, until such time that an “all clear” from a review board can restore his good name and hero status. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/last-day-nyff50-flight-brings-it-to.html


DAY 15 NYFF50: OLD SCORES/NEW ALLIANCES IN 'OUTRAGE BEYOND'
IN Takeshi Kitano’s “Outrage Beyond,” the feud among the yakuzas (Japanese good fellas) heats to a rolling boil when a cop and nightclub hostess are killed. Someone has to pay, and the police begin the shakedown to get those responsible or any convenient scapegoat to make it look good. Betrayals and backstabbing abound. At the center of all of the machinations setting, off this one and that one against the other in this sequel to “Outrage” is rogue cop and yakuza-hatter, Kataoka (Fumiyo Kohinata). “Outrage Beyond” is stylish and only slightly cheeky. The violence quotient, however, is so high that it is numbing. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/day-15-nyff50-old-scoresnew-alliances.html


DAY 12 NYFF50: ELLE FANNING STANDS UP IN ‘GINGER & ROSA’
ELLE Fanning is on something of a roll these days. In “Ginger & Rosa,” she is tasked with carrying a small film that deftly deals with important matters on her young shoulders. She does so capably, continuing to show the promise that has been apparent since “The Door in the Floor” and continued through last year’s “Super 8.” “Ginger & Rosa” will have an additional screening tonight and tomorrow after making its U. S. debut at the 50th New York Film Festival last night. Its only known country-wide release dates at the moment are 19 Oct. in the UK and Ireland and 11 April 2013 in Germany. (See trailer below.) In “Ginger & Rosa,” the 14-year-old is dealing with some serious issues, including the Cuban nuclear crisis, which threatens the whole world. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/day-12-nyff50-elle-fanning-stands-up-in.html


DAY 8 NYFF50: BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL, UNFLINCHING 'AMOUR'
HERE is LOVE, folks, and Michael Haneke presents it beautifully, tenderly, frankly and masterfully. In "Amour," which debuts at the 50th New York Film Festival tonight, Anne and Georges Laurent (French film veterans Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant) are music teachers who are in love with their craft and each other. Theirs is a full, vibrant existence until Anne suffers a stroke. Both are now confined mostly to their Paris apartment with its many creature comforts. Georges becomes caretaker and in doing so shows the world what it means to love in sickness. (See trailer below.) There are uncomfortable moments in "Amour," making it all the more powerful. This is real life played out on the big screen. In fact, "Amour" is inspired in part by the experiences of a sick aunt of MH's. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/day-8-nyff50-brilliant-beautiful.html


LEE DANIELS PUTS HIS STAMP ON 'THE PAPERBOY'
DIRECTOR Lee Daniels ("Precious") inserted aspects of himself in "The Paperboy" at almost every turn. He's in the characters, music and general ambiance of the film, which he co-adapted with Pete Dexter from the novel by the latter. To invoke an apt cliche, "The Paperboy" delivers. The film opens in limited release today after making its U.S. premiere at the 50th New York Film Festival (http://www.filmlinc.com/) on Wednesday as part of a tribute to Nicole Kidman. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/lee-daniels-puts-his-stamp-on-paperboy.html


DAY 5 NYFF50: SINGING PRAISES OF UNSUNG HERO IN ‘THE SAVOY KING’

WITH such a synopsis, who wouldn’t want to watch: The Savoy Ballroom was the home of the amazing Lindy Hop dancers, and the first venue in America where Blacks and Whites could dance and socialize together. It had a huge, but largely unheralded social impact. Born fatherless and poor, Chick Webb broke his back, developed spinal tuberculosis, and was a hunchbacked dwarf in constant pain, yet he virtually invented modern drumming and built the hottest band of the 1930s (it was the Savoy Ballroom’s “house band”). Chick was mentored by Duke Ellington, toured with Louis Armstrong, argued with Jelly Roll Morton, jammed with Artie Shaw, married a beautiful dancer, discovered and practically adopted Ella Fitzgerald … all before drumming himself to death at age 30. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/day-5-nyff50-singing-praises-of-unsung.html


DAY 4 NYFF50: HIGH-WATTAGE STAR POWER IN 'FINAL CUT ...'
HERE is a film with the mother of all all-star casts. Consider: Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Brad Pitt, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Jackie Chan, Sopia Loren, Charlie Chaplin, Jean-Paul-Belmondo, Brigitte Bardo and on and on and on … Several years in the making, the film in question is “Final Cut - Ladies and Gentlemen” (Final Cut - Hölgyeim és uraim. It is Hungarian director’s György Pàlfi (“Taxidermy”) love letter to film and it makes its North American premiere tonight at 9 at the 50th New York Film Festival. The product of budgetary constraints at the Hungarian state film office, “Final Cut is a classic Hollywood-style love story told through a near seamless montage of close to 500 films – from “Gone With the Wind” to “Indiana Jones” to “Casablanca” to “Once Upon A Time In The West” to the opener, “Avatar.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/10/day-4-nyff50-high-wattage-star-power-in.html


DAY 2 NYFF50: CAPTIVATING ACTORS IN ‘CAESAR MUST DIE’
DRAMA, humor and danger ensue when prisoners stage a production of “Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar” in “Caesar Must Die.” (Cesare deve morire) The film, from siblings Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, makes its North American debut this evening at the 50th New York Film Festival. Not only is this production challenged by disparate accents, its survival is sometimes complicated by the underlying tension that exists within the prison population. Filmed at Rome's Rebibbia Prison, “Caesar Must Die” is shot mainly in b&w and has the feel of a documentary. These are not simply actors with nothing in common with the characters they are portraying. Quite the contrary – honor, loyalty and betrayal figure prominently in their code of behavior. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/09/captivating-actors-characters-in-caesar.html


50TH NYFF OPENS WITH ANG LEE'S ‘LIFE OF PI’
YOU’RE literally in the middle of nowhere. You are lost a sea, the only survivor of a shipwreck. Well, not exactly. There is another, that would just as soon have you for dinner as look at you. Not a cannibal, but a Bengal tiger. Somehow – rather surprisingly – you become allies on a whirlwind adventure. It is “Life of Pi.” Based on the best-selling novel and directed by Ang Lee, “Life of Pi” opens the 50th New York Film Festival today. (See trailer above.) NYFF50 funs through 14 Oct. and closes with Robert Zemeckis’ “Flight.” In “Flight,” Denzel Washington heads an ensemble cast as a pilot who does not have a Chesley Sullenberger experience. NYFF50 is an an ambitious (and uncharacteristically commercial) program. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/09/50th-nyff-opens-with-ang-lees-life-of-pi.html


CAREER, FAMILY MATTERS IN 'TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE'
ON the surface, “Trouble With the Curve” may look like a baseball movie. After all, it is about a scout and many scenes are shot in ballparks across the United States. “Trouble With the Curve” is actually a buddy film, though an atypical one. In this variation on that theme the pals are father and daughter, Gus and Mickey Lobel, played by the unlikely duo of Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams. The film opens nationwide today. Gus is a widower and scout trying to hold it down in a young man’s game. Mickey, is an abandoned child transformed into a high-powered career woman with way too much to prove. Of course, they have issues. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/09/career-family-matters-in-trouble-with.html


SHEEP REBELS AGAINST SHEPHERD IN 'THE MASTER'
LANCASTER Dodd is a charismatic leader of a pseudo-religious sect in 1950s America and Freddie Quell is his almost-disciple. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix deliver masterful performances as the two unlikely allies-turned-enemies in “The Master.” The film was written, directed and co-produced by Paul Thomas Anderson. Fresh off of its well-received world premiere at the 69th Venice International Film Festival, “The Master” makes it North America debut today in select theaters. (Check local listings for showtimes.) Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/09/sheep-rebels-against-shepherd-in-master.html


'SIDE BY SIDE': IS WORLD BIG ENOUGH FOR DIGITAL AND FILM?
“IT’S exciting because it’s a reinvention of a new medium,” director Martin Scorsese says. ”If the photo chemical process has worked its way through our culture, we’re on to another level. This is the reply of the Oscar-winning director of “Hugo” and other notable films to a question by Keanu Reeves about film and digital in “Side by Side.” The film opens today in New York City after screening in Los Angeles and Boston and will be rolling out in select cities across the country over the next couple of months. Directed and written by Chris Kenneally, “Side by Side” in tracking the evolution of cinema asks whether digital should replace film for making movies or whether they can they co-exist. Host and producer KR puts these questions to a who’s who of directors. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/side-by-side-is-world-large-enough-for.html


BYRON HURT DISHES ABOUT HIS 'SOUL FOOD JUNKIES' JOURNEY
BYRON Hurt’s latest documentary, “Soul Food Junkies,” has been a labor of love. Though it grew out of a tragedy – the death of his father at 63 from pancreatic, it is bearing the director bushels of fruit. “Soul Food Junkies,” which asks in part whether soul food is killing blacks, had its world premiere at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) where it won the best documentary prize. The film has also been added to the rooster of PBS’ upcoming season of “Independent Lens.” Last Sunday, a special screening of the film was arranged for select backers and supporters at the Performing Arts Center at Baruch College. (See VEVLYN'S PEN review at http://www.ow.ly/cVaQV) Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/byron-hurt-dishes-about-his-soul-food.html


AN EXTRAORDINARY WISH IN ‘HARI-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI’
A samurai (Ebizo Ichikawa) goes to his feudal lord (Koji Yakusho) with a surprising request: He desires an honorable death by ritual suicide in the former’s courtyard. Taken aback, the lord recounts the tale of another who made such a request and came to a bad end, owing to less than honorable motives. The samurai won’t take a stern warning for an answer and pursues his quest by any means necessary, setting off the action in Takashi Miike’s “Hari-Kiri: Death of a Samurai.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/an-extraordinary-wish-in-hari-kiri.html


'SPARKLE' CASTS ENOUGH LIGHT TO BLOT OUT ITS DARK SIDE
BY DARALYN JAY
CANDY
may not exactly be good for you, but it sure tastes good going down. In comparison to the grittier 1976 original, the big-budget, major studio remake of “Sparkle,” which follows the lives and career of Sparkle Williams and her sisters, is sanitized, sweetened and packaged in a sleek wrapper. Character details and plot lines have been significantly altered. The differences are too numerous to name in this space, and the exercise would be pointless: “Sparkle” is an entertaining confection that stands on its own merits. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/sparkle-casts-enough-light-to-blot-out.html


IN THEATERS: 'RED HOOK SUMMER' & 'THE BOURNE LEGACY'
ONE of Brooklyn’s greatest ambassadors is none other than Spike Lee. The director, writer, actor and sometime-activist loves the borough that some refer to as “God’s Country.” Despite his fame and fortune, SL is still holding it down in the country. This extends to his films, too, in particular a series dubbed the “Chronicles of Brooklyn.” It started with “She’s Gotta Have It” and the culture-transforming “Do the Right Thing.” The last film in the series was “He Got Game.” The latest is “Red Hook Summer,” which SL wrote and directed. Despite some subject matter that put it in danger of an NC-17 rating, “Red Hook Summer” is essentially a coming-of-age film. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/in-theaters-red-hook-summer-bourne.html


HIDDEN FAMILY SECRETS ARE REVEALED IN ‘PEOPLE LIKE US’
FAMILY secrets. We all have them. And so often they come falling out of the booth in the back in the corner in the dark when we least expect them. Such is the case for Sam (Chris Pine) in the film, "People Like Us. Sam discovers that his father has an “outside child” – Sam’s sister – after the death of the latter. It seems that the old man may have had a crisis of conscious at some point because he leaves the daughter he never publicly acknowledged a pile of cash. It is the responsibility of cash-strapped Sam to ensure that Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) gets it and presumably learns that the father who abandoned her really did love her. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/06/hidden-family-secrets-are-revealed-in.html


DEPP, BURTON CAST 'DARK SHADOWS' IN SHARDS OF LIGHT
ONCE upon a time mere mortals were afraid of vampires. Once. But no more. Wary, yes. Afraid, no. Starting as far back as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (film and series) right through to “True Blood” and other tales of the undead, vampires are not the dreadful, terrifying creatures of yore. All of this brings into the conversation “Dark Shadows,” the Johnny Depp-Tim Burton film inspired by the gothic 1960s soap opera of the same name. Wisely, JD and TB keep it light. But who really expected the pair to go the road most traveled? Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/05/depp-burton-cast-dark-shadows-in-shards.html


ON THE POLICE BEAT AT MENTAL HEALTH FILM FESTIVAL
THE keys to being an effective CIT officer, however, cannot be taught. They are compassion, respect for human dignity and the ability to listen. The words are from the narrator of "Georgia Crisis Intervention Team" or CIT. It is a training tool for Georgia law enforcement officials designed to help them effectively interact with individuals challenged with mental health problems. The film will be screened at the five-hour 8th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival next week in downtown Brooklyn. It is one of three in keeping with the festival’s theme, Crisis Intervention: Interacting with the Police. The theme of this New York City-based festival is timely in light of several recent tragic incidents involving the New York Police Department (NYPD) and mentally ill residents. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/04/on-police-beat-at-mental-health-film.html


WAR OF THE SEXES, IT'S ON! IN 'THINK LIKE A MAN'
ON the surface, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” might appear to be a difficult book to adapt into a screenplay. On second thought, though, not at all. It would not come as a surprise to learn that comedian-actor Steve Harvey wrote the book with an eye toward a film deal. SH's best seller is a relationship advice book geared directly toward women. It is also a bit of an etiquette guide as it regards relationships. Further, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” could be described as a love letter to women in the form of honest, no-nonsense counsel on attracting and keeping a good man. There are many dos and donts. Character breakdowns of what SH describes as the major types of men, women and behaviors are discussed and dissected. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/04/war-of-sexes-its-on-in-think-like-man.html


ROMANCE, ACTION BOOKEND 11TH TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
THERE’S a long road between betrothal and nuptials, Violet (Emily Blunt) and Tom (Jason Segel) discover, and there exists any number of obstacles along the way. They are explored in broad comedic outlines in “The Five-Year Engagement." From the producers of the 2011 smash, “Bridesmaids,” the film makes its world premiere as the opener of the 11th Tribeca Film Festival (TFF). TFF closes on 29 April with the world premiere of “Marvel’s The Avengers.” Based on the popular comic book series, the film brings together a who's who of superheroes – The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America – to rid the world of an evil, greedy, mendacious forces that threaten global safety. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/04/romance-action-bookend-11th-tribeca.html


NYAFF: A GOOD MIX OF STORIES OUT OF AFRICA
WHEN it was announced that Barack Obama had become the 44th president of the United States, his Kenyan family went to the grave of the president-elect’s late father to give him the news. Nigerian-British filmmaker Branwen Okpako cited that as one of the most poignant moments in her film, “The Education of Auna Obama” (Kenya/Germany/Nigeria). The documentary is a portrait of the president’s older, activist Kenyan sister. It is one of more than 20 films and shorts, as well as live performances and talks, in the 19th New York African Film Festival (NYAFF). Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/04/nyaff-good-mix-of-stories-out-of-africa.html


'RED TAILS' AND 'EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE'
INCREDIBLY, “Red Tails” is the first widely released feature film based on the story of The Tuskegee Airmen. HBO’s “The Tuskegee Airmen” (1995) enjoyed a very limited release in theaters, but only after its debut on cable. For those scratching their heads, the flyboys in question is the U.S. Army Air Corps' 332nd Fighter Group, the all-black combat unit trained at Moton Field in Tuskegee, Alabama around the time of the WWII. They served and fought heroically in a segregated military. The George Lucas-produced “Red Tails” picks up the action in Italy where the airmen are grounded 100 miles behind enemy lines except for meaningless flight exercises. It is an important film because it puts the spotlight on a piece of American history and military history that continues to linger in the wings. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/08/in-theaters-red-hook-summer-bourne.html


IN 'THE IRON LADY,' A GREAT ACTRESS AND A GRAND DAME
WHAT is it about Meryl Streep and her extraordinary ability to portray fascinating women with pinpoint accuracy. The list is impressive: Karen Blixen (“Out of Africa”), Vogue editor Anna Wintour (“The Devil Wears Prada”), Top Chef Julia Child (“Julia & Julia”). And now, Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher. “The Iron Lady” chronicles the life of MT, particularly her near-meteoric rise and reign as the first and so far the only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. MS is often heralded as the greatest U.S. actress of all time. Perhaps she has garnered such praise because she effortless owns a character mind, body and soul. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2012/01/in-iron-lady-great-actress-and-grand.html


'GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO' SETS AND KEEPS A PACE
"THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" takes its time in the telling. It’s not at all the type of film that the mainstream of U.S. audiences is accustomed to sitting through. At 158 minutes (actually around 10 of those are credits), it will not be rushed. The first in a trilogy by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” tells the story of both disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and dysfunctional, psychologically troubled, tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salande (Rooney Mara). The duo is retained to investigate the long-ago murder of a member of the eccentric, prominent Vanger family. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/12/girl-with-dragon-tattoo-sets-and-keeps.html


IN THEATERS: 'THE ARTIST,' 'MY WEEK WITH MARILYN'
‘TIS the time of year when movie studios release some of their best films in hopes of garnering nominations from the various award-giving groups, particularly the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the outfit that issues a little statuette called Oscar.Two films that will likely make many of the nomination lists are “The Artist” and “My Week With Marilyn.” Both are brought to the world by The Weinstein Company. “The Artist,” the silent b&w film that was a sensation at Cannes and just about everywhere else it has screened on the film festival circuit, is an homage to the silent films and talkies of the Old Hollywood era – from the '20s to the '50s. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/11/in-theaters-artist-my-week-with-marilyn.html


DAY 17 NYFF: RECKONING & LUNACY IN 'THE DESCENDANTS'
THE 49th New York Film Festival closes down shop today with a journey to the lush, beautiful environs of Hawaii in “The Descendants.” The film is based on a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. It stars George Clooney as Matt King, a man suffering an existential crisis spawned by two different family events. The first is the boating accident off of Waikiki that left his wife in a coma and him to care for (or vice versa) his two troubled daughters, 10 year-old Scottie (Amara Miller) and 17-year-old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley). Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-17-nyff-reckoning-lunacy-in.html


DAY 16: 'POLICEMAN' MISFIRES AND FAILS TO IGNITE
POLICEMAN tells two parallel stories. One is of a tightknit, semi-corrupt anti-terrorist unit. The other concerns a group of disaffected, young radical wannabes who are fed up with the system. The film fails to engage because these stories focusing on current issues in Israeli society unfold symmetrically rather than overlapping. Other screenings and events today at NYFF include “Play,” “I Look Up When I Walk aka Keep Your Chin Up” and “The Untold History of the United States, Chapters 1-3.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-16-policeman-misfires-and-fails-to.html


DAY 14 NYFF: ‘THIS IS NOT A FILM,' REALLY. IT’S NOT.
THE Iranian government banned director Jafar Panahi from writing and filming. The 20-year-ban, however, did not prohibit him from acting. Consequently, the director becomes a thespian in the wonderfully subversive “This Is Not a Film,” which was reportedly shot on an iPhone. Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, who is mostly off camera, is his documentarian. Some background, last year JP was sentenced to six years in prison and prohibited from practicing his craft for colluding and propagandizing against the Iranian government. JP is under house arrest while his appeal is being considered. The case of the award-winning director and some of his colleagues has been a cause celebre in film circles, particularly on the international film festival circuit. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-14-nyff-this-is-not-film-really-its.html


DAY 11 NYFF: ESCAPING (CULTS) AND EMBRACING (POLITICS)
THE Student (“El Estudiante”) could also be titled “The Political Education of Roque.” In the film, Esteban Lamothe is in fine form as Roque, the student of the title who enrolls in a nondescript public college in Buenos Aires. Roque has three things on his mind and none is his studies. Roque is content to exist in the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll scene until he attends a rally where the fascinating Paula (Romina Paula) is among the speakers. She is a child of revolutionaries who has been involved in various causes since she was very young. Roque is even more fascinated by Paula after he enrolls in her class. It is through Paula’s class that he gains entrée into her political circle at the university. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-11-nyff-escaping-cults-and.html


DAY 10 NYFF: BEAUTY OF MONOTONY IN ‘THE TURIN HORSE’
FOR nearly 2½ hours, viewers will watch as a man and his daughter, saying next to nothing, repeat the same ritual day after day after day in a very confined space. Welcome to the world of “The Turin Horse,” Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky’s captivating meditation on the outcome of a chance encounter between Friedrich Nietzsche and the titular horse. At the beginning of the film, the narrator gives the viewer to know that FN comforted the horse, which was being whipped by its driver. The philosopher subsequently collapsed and spent the final years of his life in silence in the care of his mother and siblings. But what of the horse? Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-10-nyff-beauty-of-monotony-in-turin.html


DAY 8 NYFF: IN ‘SHAME,’ AN UNSPEAKABLE ADDICTION
STEVE McQueen and Michael Fassbender are on trend to forming the of sort director-actor collaboration shared by John Ford and John Wayne, Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant and more recently Tim Burton and Johnny Depp as well as Pedro Almodóvar and Penélope Cruz. The duo’s first outing was 2008’s much-acclaimed and decorated “Hunger” about the 1981 Irish hunger strike lead by Irish Republican Army volunteer Bobby Sands. MF gave an electric, stunning performance as Sands. Incredibly, the film was his first major role and SMcQ’s directorial debut of a feature-length film. Three years later, the two team up for another fine drama with a one-word title, “Shame.” Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-8-nyff-in-shame-unspeakable.html


DAY 7 NYFF: A SCRAPPY 'THE KID WITH A BIKE'
ADULTS who wish to see mature films are not usually drawn to ones that star children, and logically so. This is not the case for "The Kid with a Bike." In fact, it is very much an adult film, though the stars are a child and his reliable transport. Thomas Doret gives a command performance as the title character, Cyril, who has to accept love from alternate sources in Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne's modern-day fairytale. Cyril lives in an orphanage to which his down-on-his-luck father has abandoned him. Everyone seems to grasp the situation except the child. And who expects him to? Children don’t tend to believe such terrible things about their parents. What plays out is a tale of a boy on the cusp of adolescence who is cast off and doesn’t know how to express his hurt and dismay – at least not in a constructive way. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/thomas-doret-as-cyril-in-kid-with-bike.html


DAY 6: NYFF: WORLD ENDS AND SO DOES A FRIENDSHIP
SABINA Spielrein did not come between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung; the germs of a rift were already present before she entered their sphere. The general scuttlebutt around “A Dangerous Mind” is quite the opposite. But as presented in the film, the men’s respective egos were the trigger. Like the works it is taken from – Christopher Hampton’s The Talking Cure play based on John Kerr’s book, “A Most Dangerous Method” – “A Dangerous Method” chronicles the birth of pyschoanalysis through the professional and personal relationship of Freud and Jung. Naturally, the film version takes a few more leaps of imagination with the personal lives of the three main characters. It is clear from the first meeting of Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Jung (Michael Fassbender) that theirs will be a high-maintenance association both personally and professionally. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-6-nyff-world-ends-and-so-does.html


DAY 4 NYFF: 'MELANCHOLIA' AND 'MUD AND 'SOLDIERS'
JUSTINE (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are two sisters who could not be more different but whose love for each other is unshakeable. It is on their relationship that Lars von Trier’s ethereal “Melancholia” turns. Melancholia of the title is both a planet near the sun that threatens all known life and an apt characterization of the condition afflicting Justine. It opens with a dreamlike sequence featuring Justine that morphs into her motoring to her wedding reception with her groom, Michael (“True Blood’s” Alexander Skarsgard comporting himself competently). Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-4-nyff-melancholia-and-mud-and.html


DAY 3 NYFF: ACTION IN 'TAHRIR' AND AT 'LE HAVRE'
THE world watched in shocked astonishment as protests erupted, seemingly out of nowhere, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Egyptians from many spheres of society congregated to voice their frustration with a government that had neglected their welfare for far too long. At the time of the protests Stefano Savona was in Paris working on a film. He, too, was fascinated by the incredible scene unfolding in Egypt. “I just had to go,” he said during an interview via Skpe after a press and industry screening of the film for the 49th New York Film Festival. He boarded a plane to Cairo with a small camera so as to avoid detection, got himself to Tahrir Square and just followed the people. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-3-nyff-action-in-tahrir-and-at-le.html


DAY 2 NYFF: A CLASSIC AND A TRILOGY PROVIDE THRILLS
THE first full day of the 49th New York Film Festival opens ambitiously with the much ballyhoed digitally restored version of "Ben-Hur." Warner Home Video undertook the restoration of the film, winner of 11 Oscars, to coincide with the 50th anniversary year (1959) of its release. Not only does the audience get a treat in seeing such a visually superior version of "Ben-Hur," it will witness the introduction of the film by Catherine Wyler and Fraser Heston. They are the daughter of the director (William Wyler) and the son of the star (Charlton Heston). Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/10/day-2-nyff-classic-and-trilogy-provide.html


49TH NYFF GETS STARTED WITH 'CARNAGE'
CIVILITY takes a holiday when two couples meet to make things right after their boys have a fight on the playground. This is how it goes down in Roman’s Polanski’s super-charged and tightly wound “Carnage,” which opens the 49th New York Film Festival tonight with a gala screening at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall The film stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly as the parents. Besides the “Main Slate” of new release of which “Carnage” is a part, there is the “15 Annual Views from the Avant-Garde” where the focus is on the experimental and far offbeat in film making. In the “Masterworks” category is a digitally restored version of “Ben-Hur.” Viewers who saw it last week on TCM will have quite a treat in this large screen version in a restored form. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/09/49th-nyff-gets-started-with-carnage.html


'AMERICAN TEACHER' AND THE CRISIS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION
EVERYONE agrees that primary and secondary public education in the United States is a mess, especially in the nation’s big cities. Everyone also agrees that part of making it better is attracting and retaining good teachers. Vanessa Roth takes on the subject in “American Teacher.” The director uses the stories of five educators in different areas of the country to address such issues as low pay, recruitment, retention as well as the challenges and triumphs experienced by those in public education. Prescriptions are also discussed for reforming a highly dysfunctional system. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/09/american-teacher-and-crisis-in-public.html


UNORTHODOX RISE OF AN UNDERDOG IN 'MONEYBALL'
“MONEYBALL” is based on the real-life story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a former professional baseball player who did not live up to his superstar potential. He quit the talent side of the game and repurposed himself as a management type. Going into the 2002 season, General Manager Billy is tasked with reviving the lowly Oakland A’s, which once again has seen star players poached by elite clubs such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. In his quest to have a winning season Billy embraces some statistical theories that establishment baseball has dismissed as poppycock. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/09/unorthodox-rise-of-underdog-in.html


A FAST-MOVING VIRUS IS IN THE AIR IN 'CONTAGION'
IT’S spreading. It’s deadly ... Directed by Steven Soderbergh from a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, “Contagion” (see trailer below) opens nationwide today.” (Some other films opening today: “Warrior,” “Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain,” “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” and “Creature”). Will the world be saved by an airborne virus that can kill in days or will money interests, competition, ego and hubris end it as we know it? Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/09/fast-moving-virus-is-in-air-in.html


'A DANGEROUS METHOD' AND OTHER ACTIVITY IN FILM FESTIVALDOM
DOINGS abound on the film festival circuit whether festivals are underway, upcoming are calling for submissions. The 68th Venice International Film Festival opened Wednesday (until 10 Sept.). On the schedule today and making its world premiere is “A Dangerous Method,” David Cronenberg’s psychological drama based on actual events. Psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and two troubled patients, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) and Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), alternately explore sensuality, sexuality, neuroses and mild S&M — all pointing toward what will become pyschoanalysis. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/09/state-of-nation-in-transitions-recent.html


SINS OF DECADES PAST COME TO COLLECT IN 'THE DEBT'
IT is human nature to keep terrible secrets. Self-preservation compels us to do so as it does three Mossad (Israel’s CIA) agents in “The Debt.” In 1965, Rachel, Stephan and David (Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington) are assigned to retrieve the Nazi war criminal, Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) aka the Surgeon of Birkenau, and bring him back to Tel Aviv to answer for his misdeeds during World War II. Vogel is alive, well and thriving in East Berlin. All is going well until the agents’ careful plan hits a snag. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/08/sins-of-decades-past-come-to-collect-in.html


GETTING NEEDS MET FOR A PRICE IN 'SPECIAL TREATMENT'
IN “Special Treatment,” the first film from French director Jeanne Labrune in six years, she brings attention to the parallels of two seemingly different professions. It is ennui that is the cause of depression and listlessness in call girl Alice (Isabelle Huppert) and psychoanalyst Xavier (Bouli Lanners). The argument can also be made that the two Parisians in “Special Treatment” are ill-suited to their chosen métier. Further, they are both in their 40s and simply may be experiencing a midlife crisis. This is especially the case for Alice. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/08/getting-needs-met-for-price-in-special.html


AT 'D23 EXPO,' DISNEY REVEALS COMING EVENTS, CLASSIC MOMENTS
Tim Burton is remaking his 1984 live-action short, “Frankenweenie,” as a full-length, stop-motion film shot in b&w. Featuring the voices of Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Martin Short and Charlie Tahan as Victor, “Frankenweenie” won’t hit movie theaters until October 2012. However, visitors to The Walt Disney Studios' D23 Expo this weekend (19-21 Aug.) will get a behind-the-scenes look at the film. The expo at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center also promises glimpses of never-before-scene footage of “Frankenweenie,” several other Disney, Pixar Animation Studios (“Brave”) and Marvel Studios (“The Avengers”) projects, as well as exhibits, panels, advance screenings and star appearances. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/08/dvd-releases-three-different.html


Sixth African Diaspora Summer Film Series
“DAVID is Dying” and “Fire in Brooklyn" are two of eight features and documentaries in the 6th Annual African Diaspora Summer Film Series. The title character in Stephen Lloyd Jackson’s drama is a London hedgefund manager who has a difficult choice to make when he learns that he is HIV-positive. Meanwhile, “Fire in Brooklyn” is an ode to the world renown West Indies cricket team, which is considered the best squad in the sport. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/08/african-diaspora-intl-film-festival.html


BEFORE THE FALL: ‘RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES'
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the prequel to "The Planet of the Apes," centers around the experiments that lead to the domination of primates over humans. James Franco heads a cast including, John Lithgow, as a scientist who creates something very unexpected. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/08/before-fall-rise-of-planet-of-apes.html


‘COWBOYS & ALIENS’: STRANGE LIFEFORMS PLUNDER WILD WEST
COWBOYS have their place and aliens have their place. And nary the twain should meet, except they do in a film imaginably titled Cowboys & Aliens. The film stars Daniel Craig - yes, the current James Bond - as a man with (initially) no memory. It also stars Harrison Ford - yes, Indiana Jones - as a man with no mercy. The stars have about as much chemistry as vampires and garlic. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/07/cowboys-aliens-strange-lifeforms.html


NEWFEST FILMS: RIGHTS, WRONGS AND OTHER STORIES
IN “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness,” Thomas Allen Harris focuses his lens on this part of the state senator’s story, including his sponsorship of the Bay State’s gay rights bill. The documentary is one of the entries getting lots of buzz in NewFest, just days before nonheterosexuals can legally wed in New York. The festival opened last night with David Weissman’s “We Were Here,” chronicling the stories and reminisces of five who were in Frisco in the ’70s when it was the center of the gay universe. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/07/newfest-films-rights-wrongs-and-other.html


IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE FOR ‘LARRY CROWNE’
Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks), the title character in the film opening nationwide today, is a Navy vet who works as a salesman at a big-box store. In a down economy layoffs are imminent and the first to go will be those without a college degree. Despite Larry’s long and stellar service, he gets the axe. When Larry is laid off he doesn’t do anything so banally dramatic as getting drunk and having a one-night stand. As close to drama as he veers is during a semi-pity party with neighbor Lamar (Cedric the Entertainer), which is perfectly understandable. Lamar will have none of it. He basically tells Larry to get over himself. After all, Larry is white and can easily start anew. “Larry Crowne” is really about one man’s quest to reinvent himself in a world in which he has become irrelevant. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/07/its-wonderful-life-for-larry-crowne.html


A RATHER STRIKING EXAMPLE OF A ‘BAD TEACHER’
IN general, middle-school teacher Elizabeth Halsey really just doesn’t give an F. Yet, she is the protagonist in “Bad Teacher,” the comedy starring the delightfully way-over-the-top Cameron Diaz as the title character. It opens nationwide today. “Bad Teacher,” directed by Jake Kasdan (“Freaks and Geeks”), is a perfect movie for the season. It is summertime and the living is easy. Light, funny, low-browesque fare with only one bit of toilet humor is the order of the day. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/06/rather-striking-example-of-bad-teacher.html


ON A FOOL'S ERRAND IN 'PIRATES ... ON STRANGER TIDES'
IN “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment of the “Pirates” series, Captain Jack (Johnny Depp) and his is old frenemy, Capt. Hector Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), team up on the high seas and dry land against old flame, Angelica (Penelope Cruz), Capt. Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and, of course, the British navy in the search for the elusive “spout” that will make those who drink from it young, beautiful, virile and vital – FOREVER. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/05/pirates-on-stranger-tides-is-on-fools.html


TURNING CAMERA LENS ON MENTAL ILLNESS
JOEY Pants (aka Joe Pantoliano) tried sex, drugs, success, rock ‘n’ roll – the whole nine yards – to ease his pain and discomfort. Nothing helped, he explains in “You Kidding Me Too.’’In the documentary directed by “The Sopranos” alum, he turns his camera on those who suffer from and thrive in spite of mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder from which he suffers. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/05/turning-camera-lens-on-mental-illness.html


FOR LOVE, ‘ARTHUR’ MAKES RICH SACRIFICE
RUSSELL Brand is one of the latest UK imports whose star is rising in the United States. It could near its zenith or plunge toward the nadir with the remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore vehicle, “Arthur.” This latest version of “Arthur” hues pretty closely to the original. One major difference is that Arthur does not have a butler named Hobson, rather he has a nanny named Hobson in the person of RB’s “The Tempest” costar “Helen Mirren.” She’s no John Gielgud, but count on Dame Helen to get the job done. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/04/for-love-arthur-makes-rich-sacrifice.html


LOVE, LOSS AND THINGS BETWEEN IN ‘I WILL FOLLOW’
BY DARALYN JAY “I Will Follow”
is an engaging meditation on loss, love and finding a way to live with both. Written, directed and produced by Ava DuVernay, the story centers around a day in the life of celebrity makeup artist Maye (Salli Richardson-Whitfield) as she packs the belongings of her deceased aunt in preparation for vacating the home they shared during the final months of the life of the latter. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/04/love-lossthings-between-in-i-will.html


TRANSCENDING HUMAN BOUNDS IN 'LIMITLESS'
MDT synthesizes everything thing we have learned/seen and catalogs it to be recalled at the just the right moment, permitting up us to become perfectly proficient in endless ways. This is precisely what happens in “Limitless” to Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a down-on-his-luck New York writer who goes from a bum’s existence to living extra-special large. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/03/transcending-human-bounds-in-limitless.html


'THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU' KEEPS THINGS ON-PLAN
IS “The Adjustment Bureau” about unseen forces that control our every move? Or is it about how true love can withstand and defeat all of the forces on earth and beyond that threaten to subvert it? Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/03/adjustment-bureau-keeps-things-on-plan.html


'THE BLACK SWAN' OWNS INDIE SPIRIT AWARDS
THE big winner at yesterday's 26th Film Independent Spirit Awards was “Black Swan." About a ballerina who takes method acting one pirouette too far, the film won in all four categories in which it was nominated, including Best Actress for Natalie Portman. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/02/black-swan-owns-indie-spirit-awards.html


‘SANCTUM’ IS A DEEP, DARK AND DESERTED PLACE
DOES James Cameron (“Titanic,” “Avatar”) have another uber super blockbuster on his hands? No doubt, time will tell. The latest from the director/Oscar-winning executive producer is “Sanctum.” Directed by Alister Grierson (JC is executive producer), “Sanctum” chronicles the experiences of a team of underwater cave divers on an expedition to the most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. Read more: http://www.vevlynspen.com/2011/02/sanctum-is-deep-dark-and-deserted-place.html


‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED,’ THAT’S THE ARRANGEMENT
AT first glance, “No Strings Attached” looks very much like a by-the-numbers romantic comedy. Look again, though, because it has a bit more going for itself than that. Starring Natalie Portman as Emma and Ashton Kutcher as Adam, “No Strings Attached” explores the new frontier of the male-female friendship that has the added component of a non-exclusive sexual relationship – in other words, no strings attached. Read more: http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2011/01/no-strings-attached-thats-arrangement.html


COENS STAY TRUE TO HEART AND SOUL OF 'TRUE GRIT'
“True Grit” I circa 1969, starring John Wayne, Kim Darby and Glen Campbell, is one of my all-time favorites. It and the Coens’ version are based on the classic American novel of the same name by the reclusive Charles Portis. The Coens are pretty faithful to the book, whereas Marguerite Roberts took a few more liberties with "True Grit" I. Read more: http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/12/coens-stay-true-to-heart-and-soul-of.html

MIAAC: One Man's Quest to Save the Music
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/11/miaac-one-mans-quest-to-save-music.html

Many Different Textures ‘For Colored Girls’
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/11/many-different-textures-for-colored.html

DOC NYC, New York's Newest Docs Fest
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/11/doc-nyc-new-yorks-newest-docs-fest.html

Good Mix in Southeast Asian Intl. Film Festival
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/10/good-mix-in-southeast-asian-intl-film.html

In 'Hereafter,' the Dead Have Their Say
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-hereafter-dead-have-their-say.html

Genesis of ‘The Social Network’ Like No Other
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/10/genesis-of-network-like-no-other.html

‘INSIDE JOB’: Fix Is in, and Taxpayers Are Dupes
http://www.vevlynspen.com/2010/10/fix-is-in-and-taxpayers-are-dupes.html

NY Film Festival Sheds Some of Its Stodginess
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/09/festival-sheds-some-of-its-stodginess.html

Tentacles of Tribeca Reach Doha
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/04/tentacles-of-tribeca-reach-doha-and.html

Extra Helpings of Love Today for the Planet
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/04/extra-helpings-of-love-today-for-planet.html

Revisiting 'The Arbor' to Make Sense of It
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/04/revisiting-arbor-to-make-sense-of-it.html

Reason to Laugh Amid the Grind
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/04/reason-to-laugh-amid-grind.html

An Impromptu Chat With a Short Man
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/04/impromptu-chat-with-shorts-man.html

A Winner Cannot Believe His Good Fortune
http://vevlynspen.blogspot.com/2010/05/winner-cannot-believe-his-good-fortune.html

 
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