Television Takes On Two of the Biggest Crime Stories of the Past 25 Years

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 11:02 am

Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss stars in the story of one of the biggest financial frauds of all time, Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, with Blythe Danner as his wife.

People who want to know more should watch the documentary “Chasing Madoff.”

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer will appear in another Madoff movie, “The Wizard of Lies,” directed by Barry Levinson.

And Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as O.J. Simpson in the story of his criminal trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.

The cast includes John Travolta as defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran, David Schwimmer as Simpson friend Robert Kardashian, Selma Blair as Kris Kardashian, Connie Britton as Nicole Simpson’s friend, Faye Resnick, and Evan Handler as Alan Dershowitz.
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Based on a true story Crime Television

Trailer: The Butler Tells the Story of A Man Who Served Eight Presidents

Posted on May 14, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Lee Daniels (“Precious”) directs this story of Cecil Gaines, the White House butler who served eight Presidents, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, with Robin Williams as Harry Truman, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Nelsan Ellis (“True Blood”) as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.  The movie will be released in October.

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Based on a true story Trailers, Previews, and Clips

Red Tails

Posted on January 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

The official military documents of the 1940’s said that African-Americans were “mentally inferior” “subservient and cowards” and not fit to fly planes.  The Tuskegee Airmen of WWII proved that African-Americans were outstanding pilots.  They had to fight to be trained and they had to fight to be allowed to do combat missions, but once they were in the air they demonstrated skill, courage, and dedication that made their divisions one of the most highly decorated of the war.  For George Lucas, a long-time scholar of aerial combat, a film about the Tuskegee Airmen was a passion project.  When the studios told him that they would not finance an expensive movie with no white leading characters, he put up almost $100 million of his own money for a feature film and a documentary about one of the most inspiring stories of the 20th century.

It has the best of intentions, an excellent cast, and thrilling battle footage.  But the scenes on the ground are clunky.  It is in part because the filmmakers, with some justice, do not trust the audience to know very much about history, both of the second World War and of institutionalized racism, so they feel they have to explain everything.  But screenwriters John Ridley and Aaron McGregor (the “Boondocks” comic strip) make the dialog so expository-heavy it is a surprise the aircraft are not too weighed down by them to get off the ground.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Terrence Howard (both, by coincidence, playing Tuskegee Airmen for the second time) play officers inspired by real-life General Benjamin O. Davis.  Gooding plays Major Emanuelle Stance, the commanding officer of the Italian air base where the Tuskegee Airmen are waiting to be allowed to fly missions and Howard plays Colonel A. J. Bullard, who is in Washington advocating for his fliers to be given a chance.  The dignity and resolve Howard shows in meetings with a racist superior officer (“Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston) shine despite the awkward dialog.

So does the terrific cast of young actors including Nate Parker, Elijah Kelly, Method Man, Ne-Yo, and, as the daredevil every war movie has to have (think of him as a WWII Maverick from “Top Gun”), British actor David Oyelowo.  His nickname is “Lightning” and he’s the kind of guy who has to have one more swing around to hit one more target on the way home.  There is the usual conflict between the by-the-rules guy and the rules-are-made-t0-be-broken guy and a sweet romance with a local girl who speaks no English.  The script falters but the power of the real story, the sincerity and screen presence of the actors and the dedication and gallantry of the Tuskegee Airmen and the men who portray them make this a stirring tribute.


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Action/Adventure Based on a true story Epic/Historical War
Interview: Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Anthony Hemingway of ‘Red Tails’

Interview: Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Anthony Hemingway of ‘Red Tails’

Posted on January 19, 2012 at 8:00 am

Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. and director Anthony Hemingway sat down with a small group of critics to talk about their new film, “Red Tails,” the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the highly decorated heroes who flew missions in the still-segregated Army of WWII.  It was the dream project for producer George Lucas.

This was Gooding’s second time playing a member of this legendary group. He appeared in the 1995 made-for-cable The Tuskegee Airmen.  “It’s like you’ve been researching the role for 12-15 years,” he said.  “The first one was more about their training and the racism and hardships and culminated with their first intro to the war effort and the first dogfight.  This was George Lucas’ passion project to display the warriorism and the heroism that are the Tuskegee Airmen in combat.  So this movie opens up during the war and we meet these guys after the’ve been in training for as many months as they will actually engage in combat.  This is the roller coaster ride.  Some of the footage in this movie, you feel like you’re in one of those P51 cockpits when they’re flying.  You feel like you’re being shot at by the German Messerschmitts.  It’s everything I wanted the first one to be!”

Director Anthony Hemingway talked about putting the actors through flight training.  “It was fun!  To actually experience that G-force.  You hear about it but you can’t really connect with it unless you go through it.  We did actually fly in a real P51.”  Gooding said he was inspired by classic WWII movies and by real-life heroes like General Benjamin O. Davis, the commander of the Tuskegee Airmen.  That still strength that he portrayed, the way he carried himself, was what I wanted to resonate with my character and echo and mirror.”

Hemingway said the movie is very relevant today because it relates to all struggles that people face.  “Seeing the obstacles that they overcame so brilliantly, the perseverance there, we can learn from that.”  “Selfless sacrifice is what these guys represented and dedication to our country over themselves is something our men and women overseas today can absolutely identify with,” added Gooding.  “I like to say this is my love letter to the armed forces, no matter what branch you’re in, no matter what race you are.”  “It’s our salute for their service,” said Hemingway.

They had just come from the White House.  “It was beautiful to see all these legacies coming together in one room,” Hemingway said.  “A handful of the real airmen who flew in combat, our first black President, George Lucas. Honestly, it was a beautiful experience.  We sat in the family theater in the White House and screened my first film.  And we were in Houston and George and Barbara Bush were there and she walked out bawling because she was so moved by the film. They’ve asked to be able to show it to George W. and his family.”  They were just as thrilled at a big premiere at the Zeigfeld theater when an elderly woman came over to introduce herself as a Tuskegee Airman.  She was Nancy Colon, a nurse.  “It was an all-black airbase in the segregated military so every face there was black.”

Gooding said that when he heard about the project he insisted on meeting with producer George Lucas to demonstrate his passion for the project and joked that he would be willing do do anything, even the catering for the set.  Lucas warned him it would be a tough shoot, down and dirty.  “I’m in!” was Gooding’s response.

I asked Hemingway about how he as a director worked to allow the acting of the combat scenes come through when the characters had their faces obscured by oxygen masks.  “We took a little creative license.  There are four or five action sequences in the film and in the first two I took the liberty of not using the masks to enable you to connect with the characters.  Once we got there, if you didn’t know who the characters were, we failed.  By then you could identify them by voice and in the casting of it, knowing from the beginning that their faces would be covered, we worked to make sure that the palette of the cast, the hues of their faces would help you easily stay connected to the story.”

Hemingway told us with tears in his eyes of the privilege he felt to present the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.  He did a great deal of research at George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch, were huge amounts of information and resources had been assembled for him, but he also went to Tuskegee to “walk in their footsteps” and see where the men had trained and where First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt made her famous visit to fly with one of the Tuskegee-trained pilots.

They spoke about what it meant to them to have four of the real Tuskegee Airmen on the set with them every day, sharing their stories and providing support and guidance.  Gooding said it meant a lot to him to see the real heroes inspiring the young actors who were playing them.  “The first real wow for me was when I would sleep in the car on the way to the set because we would start shooting at 5 am to get the light.  I would wake up and we would be on this airbase, back in time.”  Hemingway said that one of the Airmen, the late Lee Archer, lifted up his cane to point at the aircraft and said, “Get rid of all you civilians and I’ll be back in the air.”  He got choked up telling Hemingway that when he was growing up everyone said they couldn’t do it.  “To see the story being told meant so much to him.”

They spoke about the commitment George Lucas had to the story, putting up his own money for the feature film and for a documentary narrated by Gooding called “Double Victory.”  “One of the first things Lucas told me was, ‘You focus on the story, the shooting, the acting, the I got your back on the flying.'” He’s been studying the dogfights for years and I was confident knowing the support was there.

Gooding said, “Come see the movie because it’s action/adventure and a statement and an American tale.  President Obama stood in front of the screen, and we were all so emotional, and he said, ‘This is an American tale of heroism.’  That’s why people should come to this movie.”


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