Tonight I’ll be on Behind the Scenes — Listen In!

Posted on April 5, 2019 at 3:22 pm

You can hear me tonight on Behind the Scenes!

Here’s the info about the show:

Want to make it big in Hollywood?

Join celebrities, legends and insiders with Hollywood executive and former Victoria’s Secret model Summer Helene and get the royal tour as the “Duchess of Hollywood” takes you Behind the Scenes and gives you an insider’s guide to the entertainment world. Get the scoop and all the dirt when you listen in on location with Summer Helene as she takes you past the glitz and glamour.

By the way, it ain’t all wine and roses in this biz so our show is 18 and over due to adult content.

Behind the Scenes is broadcast live every Friday at 4 PM Pacific Time on the VoiceAmerica Variety Channel.

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Media Appearances

The Best of Enemies

Posted on April 4, 2019 at 5:30 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for thematic material, racial epithets, some violence and a suggestive reference
Profanity: Strong language including racist epithets
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, cigarettes
Violence/ Scariness: Peril and violence including racist attacks
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie, including racial and disability issues
Date Released to Theaters: April 5, 2019
Date Released to DVD: July 1, 2019
Copyright 2018 STX Entertainment

The biggest divide in this big, divided world is not between people of different races or religions or political beliefs; it is between people who have different ideas of who is “us” and who is “them.” “The Best of Enemies” is based on the true story of C.P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell), a white supremacist and the Grand Exalted Cyclops (president) of the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan, and Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson), a black woman who was a community activist working for civil rights and economic justice.

In 1971, Ellis and Atwater were appointed co-chairs of a charette, a dispute resolution mechanism used to resolve complicated community disagreements. Originally developed for land use debates among parties with multiple and varied interests, it was adapted for other kinds of issues by Bill Riddick, played in this film by Babou Ceesay.

Ellis and Atwater lived in Durham, North Carolina. Seventeen years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that segregated schools were unconstitutional, the Durham schools were still divided. When the school attended by the black children burned down, the city had to decide whether to let them attend the school the white children were attending. The court did not want to deal with it, so they asked Bill Riddick to see if he could get the community to come to some agreement.

Ann Atwater worked for Operation Breakthrough but it was more than a profession; it was her calling. We first see her arguing on behalf of a young woman whose apartment is uninhabitable. And throughout the film we see that her entire life is one of advocacy and generosity. Everyone she meets is either someone to be protected or someone to help her protect others. Her sense of “us” encompassed the world.

C.P. Ellis ran a gas station. He loved his family, including a disabled son who lived in a residential facility.  The Klan made him feel respected and important. He created an outreach program to bring teenagers into the Klan. And he organized outings like the time they shot up the home of  a young white woman coming home from a date with a black man.

He agrees to co-chair the charette because he believes that anyone else who got the position would cave. And there are those in the town who would never associate with the Klan but who are glad to support them in private.

Rockwell and Henson make Ellis and Atwater into fully-developed, complex characters. There’s a world of history in the way Henson walks as Atwater, shoulders hunched, hitching her hips along.  In one scene where she reprimands young black boys for tearing down a KKK hood on display, and then straightens it herself after shooing them away, the expression in her eyes speaks volumes about what she has seen.  And when we see the patience and tenderness Ellis has for his disabled son, we get a sense of all he thinks has been taken from him and how much it matters to him to hold on to something that makes him feel powerful.

This is a thoughtful, sincere drama, beautifully performed with a touching conclusion, first of the story itself, and the small acts of kindness that make “thems” into “us-es,” and then with the footage of the real-life Atwater and Ellis. When she takes his arm to help him walk out of the room, our own us-es get a little larger, too.

Parents should know that this movie deals frankly with issues of bigotry and racism including attacks by the Klu Klux Klan. It includes some strong language with racist epithets and a sexual reference. Characters drink and smoke and there are violent, racially-motivated attacks.

Family discussion: What did Atwater and Ellis have in common? Why did she help his son? Why did she tell the boys not to take down the KKK hood? Who is the Ann Atwater in your community and what are the issues?

If you like this, try: the book by Osha Gray Davidson and the 2018 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Green Book

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Based on a book Based on a true story Drama DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies Race and Diversity Race and Diversity

SHAZAM!

Posted on April 3, 2019 at 5:19 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action, language, and suggestive material
Profanity: Some schoolyard language and a few bad words
Alcohol/ Drugs: Teens try to buy beer, character with some substance abuse issues
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action/comic book peril and violence
Date Released to Theaters: April 5, 2019
Date Released to DVD: July 15, 2019
Copyright Warner Brothers 2019

Here’s a word you don’t hear very often in reviews of superhero movies: “Shazam!” is adorable. Oh, yes, it’s exciting and has great fights and special effects and a good bad guy and all that. But it is also wildly entertaining, downright delightful, and, yes, adorable. This is an especially welcome development from DC Comic and Warner Brothers, which have tended toward the it’s-depressing-so-it-must-be-profound side of superhero stories.
“SHAZAM!” is fun. It is exciting. It is warm-hearted. It is very funny. And it is, no kidding, wise, in its own way much more profound than many portentous comic book movies with angsty heroes.

Screenwriter Henry Gayden draws as much from the classic Penny Marshall/Tom Hanks movie “Big” as he does from the varied history of the comic book character whose name is an acronym for the sources of his power:

S The wisdom of Solomon
H The strength of Hercules
A The stamina of Atlas
Z The power of Zeus
A The courage of Achilles
M The speed of Mercury

But Shazam has one more power that is even more intriguing — when teenager Billy Batson (a terrific Asher Angel) says “SHAZAM!” he doesn’t just turn into a superhero — he turns into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi). So Billy/Shazam is excited about being super-strong and having the power to zap things, but he is just as excited about being able to buy beer.

One thing he is not excited about is being sent to another foster home. Billy became separated from his mother at a fair when he was a child and has been bouncing around in the foster system ever since, trying to track down his mother whenever he gets a chance — and making chances when he does not.

The new foster home is headed by a couple who were foster kids themselves and it includes an assortment of children, most of whom try to reassure Billy, but he has no interest. His roommate is Freddy (an equally terrific Jack Dylan Grazer), who walks with a crutch. But Billy does not want to make friends and getting close to anyone seems to him like an admission that his real family, his mother, will never be found. “Families are for people who can’t take care of themselves,” he says. And yet he cannot stop looking for the mother he lost, or who lost him.

And then Billy meets a wizard (Djimon Hounsou). We’ve already seen a flashback where another kid was given the chance to gain the powers of Shazam but failed the test. We won’t find out whether Billy passes the test because the wizard’s time is running out and Billy is his last chance. So, Billy gets the powers, and we get to watch him try to figure out what they are. So does Freddy, who becomes his sidekick, and then his friend, and then, maybe, his family.

While Billy/Shazam is having a blast — literally — with his new powers, the boy who failed the test in 1974 is now an angry man (all-purpose villain Mark Strong as Dr. Thaddeus Sivana) who has spent his life trying to get another chance at the powers that he was once offered.

The film embraces its “Big” themes, with a callout to its most iconic scene, as Billy/Shazam pauses in a chase scene to play with a giant keyboard in a toy store.

Like Hanks, Levi shows us the boy inside the man, the unguarded expressions of someone who has not yet developed a social mask and the awkward moves of someone still trying on the adult body and not too sure of how it takes up space. Angel and Glazer are both outstanding, with tons of cinematic charisma. The story of Billy and Freddy is a perfect balance to the special effects/superhero storyline, and Billy’s growing understanding of what family really means is heartfelt and genuinely sweet.

To say more would be to spoil the movie’s best surprises, and you deserve to see them un-spoiled. Just go to one of this year’s most entertaining films.

NOTE: Stay through the credits for TWO extra scenes!

ALSO NOTE: This is the first of two “Big”-inspired films this month. Coming up, we have the “Big” triple reversal “Little,” starring Black-ish’s Marsai Martin, who came up with the idea when she was watching the Hanks film. Instead of a white boy wishing to be big, this ons is about a black woman who is wished into becoming a child again. The film co-stars Regina Hall and “Insecure’s” Issa Rae.

Parents should know that this film includes extended sci-fi/superhero peril and violence, some schoolyard and brief strong language, a teen sneaking into a strip club, and some potty humor. There are issues of parental abandonment.

Family discussion: What did Billy learn from seeing his mother? If you had Shazam’s powers, what would you do first? Was the wizard’s test a good one? How was Thaddeaus affected by his father?

If you like this, try: “Thor: Ragnarock” and “Wonder Woman”

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Happy 97th Birthday Doris Day!!

Posted on April 3, 2019 at 11:50 am

One of the 20th century’s greatest and — yes — most versatile performers is Doris Day, who celebrates her 97th birthday today. Born Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff in Cincinnati, Ohio, her first dream was to be a dancer, until she was injured in an automobile accident. So, she became a singer, and her version of “Sentimental Journey” became a huge hit. By then, a bandleader told her to use the last name “Day” after the song “Day by Day.”

Songwriters Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne recommended her for a movie musical, “Romance on the High Seas,” where she played an outspoken young singer impersonating a society lady on a cruise ship. She introduced the song, “It’s Magic.”

The three comedies she made with Rock Hudson made her one of the most beloved stars of the 1960’s.

She was a fine dramatic actress, and won an Oscar for the biopic about singer Ruth Etting, “Love Me or Leave Me.”

Nobody gets mad better than Doris Day.

Her song “Secret Love” in “Calamity Jane” won that year’s Oscar.

And she is excellent as the neurotic wife in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”  She sang “Que Sera Sera” in that film, and it became a huge hit.

Sometimes dismissed in the early days of the women’s equality movement as a relic of the 50’s, today we recognize her for portrayals of strong, independent, professionally successful women, even in her comedies like “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back” and the musical “The Pajama Game.”  An essay by Molly Haskell in an early issue of Ms. Magazine was the first to claim her as a feminist icon.

Miss Day has not made a film since 1968, but her song “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” memorably appeared in Baz Luhrmann’s “Strictly Ballroom.”

I’m especially fond of her performances in “The Thrill of it All,” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Pajama Game,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.”  Happy birthday, Miss Day!

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Actors

JxJ Comes to Washington DC

Posted on April 2, 2019 at 11:51 am

Washington DC’s Jewish Film Festival and Jewish Music Festival are joining forces to become JxJ, a multi-disciplinary cultural event encompassing the performing and visual arts that will take place from May 8-26, 2019 in the Nation’s Capital.

The Jewish Film Festival, now in its 29th year, has a great line-up of international films, with premieres, tributes, and events with filmmakers. I’m especially looking forward to 100 Faces, a British film with 100 Jews, one born in each year from 1917-2017.

Here the filmmaker explains the project:

The documentary about Carl Laemmle, founder of Universal Pictures and a major figure in the establishing of Hollywood.

Carl Laemmle – Film Trailer from James L. Freedman on Vimeo.

Seder-Masochism I’m a huge fan of Nina Paley’s brilliant, gorgeously animated Sita Sings the Blues and have been waiting impatiently for this follow-up.

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Festivals
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