Top 6 Things You Don’t Know About “Lady Bird”

“Lady Bird” has garnered a lot of attention as a well-made coming of age story set in 2002.  Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it captures the mother-daughter relationship without a singe misstep.

The movie stars Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet.

A lot has been written about this multiple Oscar nominated film, but here are 6 things you don’t know about “Lady Bird”:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“The Shape of Water” a princess romance

It’s difficult to discern the plot of “The Shape of Water” by watching the trailers.  It turns out, the movie is a love story between a sea creature and a mute janitor (Sally Hawkins).  Even more specific than a love story, it’s a fairy tale princess story at heart.  Writer/director Guillermo del Toro makes that clear from the opening words in the film, in a voice over that declares all that follows the story of the “sleeping princess”.  In fact, Hawkins is reminiscent of multiple princesses: Snow White and Ariel, to name just two.

While the concept behind girl-meet-boy and falls in love may be common, del Toro’s interpretation (co-written with Vanessa Taylor) is anything but.  It’s magical and mystical in ways live action films rarely are; the world on-screen feels grounded and real, despite an opening that tells viewers otherwise.

There is, of course, a difference between a world that “feels real” and one which is grounded in our reality.  We may buy into the fantasy of “Star Wars” without once thinking this is truly our future.  Here, however, “The Shape of Water” at once creates our past and future simultaneously.  It’s real and also realistic.

For more about “The Shape of Water”, take a look below:

 

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

“The Greatest Showman” an uplifting end-of-year musical

Movie musicals seem to be making a comeback–or perhaps they never really left.  Original musicals are that much more complicated, attempting to entice the masses to see and hear the unfamiliar.  Director Michael Gracey spent nearly 10 years bringing “The Greatest Showman” to life, work-shopping the story of PT Barnum’s life with Broadway veterans in New York.  When he felt ready, Gracey staged a performance for executives to sell them on the concept.  It worked, and the first-time feature film director moved on to the next part of the process.

For most directors, that would mean a bit of prep and then actually making the film.  For Gracey, it involved ten weeks of rehearsals and producing shot-for-shot video footage (at times on his iphone!) of what would later be re-created by the director of photography, two-time Oscar nominee Seamus McGarvey.

“The Greatest Showman” is a passionate take on the circus founder’s life.  The film balances many issues of the period, including classism and interracial relationships.  While there are moments of un-evenness, overall the production is uplifting; it’s a feel-good movie at its core.

For more about “The Greatest Showman”, including information directly from Hugh Jackman and Michael Gracey, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Tommy Flanagan talk “The Ballad of Lefty Brown”

Traditional Westerns have fallen out of favor in recent years, though the values they espouse remain timeless.  Writer/director Jared Moshe’s “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” may fit the mold of a Western but with one distinct difference: it focuses on the overlooked sidekick rather than the standard hero.

Moral codes like integrity and loyalty, however, remain at the forefront.  In fact, it was this code of ethics in particular that drew Peter Fonda (“Edward Johnson”) and Tommy Flanagan (“Tom Harrah”) to the film.

For more about “The Ballad of Lefty Brown” directly from Bill Pullman (“Lefty Brown”), Fonda, Flanagan and Moshe themselves, take a look below:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

Pixar’s COCO exceeds expectations

The trailers for Pixar’s newest animated film “Coco” aren’t particularly captivating.  At first glance, the story seems confusing and vaguely reminiscent of last year’s motion-capture feature “Kubo and the Two Strings”.

As it turns out, trailers can be misleading and skipping “Coco” would be the biggest mistake of the year.  Miguel’s (Anthony Gonzalez) search for his father through the land of the dead is a visual masterpiece.  The production design is rich with detail and the character design is fabulous. Whoever first imagined skeletons could embody a range of emotions as sympathetic characters had tremendous foresight.  “Coco” is a prime example of Pixar at its finest.

Aside from the look of the movie, it’s the themes and story that push it over the top in the best possible way.  “Coco” explores what it is to follow your dreams, respect your family and that seeing is not always believing.  Similar elements exist here as in the other Pixar success stories as well; death and sacrifice are significant and, as was so beautifully expressed in 2015’s “Inside Out”, while emotions may guide us, they shouldn’t define us.

The movie also stars the voice talents of Gael Garcia Bernal and Benjamin Bratt.

For more about “Coco” and how the color design influences the film, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Walt Disney Studios / Pixar.

ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. Review & Analysis

“Roman J Israel, Esq.” isn’t quite as the trailers suggest.  It’s a redemption story of sorts as Roman (Denzel Washington) transforms from idealistic advocate into someone who is out for himself.

Colin Farrell also stars.

For more about “Roman J Israel, Esq.”, including some significant product placement, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Sony Pictures.

SUBURBICON Review & Analysis

“Suburbicon” is a film of broad-stroke social commentary that uses the concurrent experiences two families to reflect on society’s biases.

For a more in-depth examination of “Suburbicon”, take a look below:

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

THOR: RAGNAROK Review & Analysis

“Thor: Ragnarok” may be the third stand-alone Thor movie, but it revitalizes the franchise, as well as the superhero genre, in a way that the previous chapters have not.  Director Taika Waititi’s vision presents Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as more smart-alecky yet relatable than ever before.

The movie’s opening scene shows a new Thor.  While there’s never really a fear that he’s not as all-powerful as ever, there’s also a different tenor to his wisecracking jokes.  He’s cocky, but not standoffish.

A good portion of “Thor: Ragnarok” takes place on Sakaar, a planet ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).  He’s a brand of nutty reminiscent of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka, a connection further emphasized by several references to the 1971 film.  Though the Grandmaster is a more heavy-handed ruler of his domain than Wonka, there’s a lightheartedness to his world despite evidence to the contrary.

In fact, the entire movie is lighter than many of the others within the superhero genre, both in terms of humor as well as on the technical side.  The visibly brighter way “Thor: Ragnarok” is shot becomes a big clue that things aren’t as grim as the story may suggest.

That said, Hela (Cate Blanchett) may be the realm’s most powerful villain yet.  She’s both awe-inspiring and horrifying in everything from her behavior to her backstory–which is better left unsaid in the interest of avoiding spoilers.

The movie also stars Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, and Idris Elba.

For more about “Thor: Ragnarok”, including a great behind-the-scenes story about Cate Blanchett’s fight scenes, take a look below:


–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

MARSHALL Review & Analysis

“Marshall” has all the makings of a fantastic biopic: a venerable subject matter, impressive actors, and an Oscar-nominated director in Reginald Hudlin (“Django Unchained”).  While this film is undoubtedly an Oscar-contender, it turns out that it’s not so much a biopic after all. Despite former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s remarkable record winning 29 of 32 cases before the Supreme Court as a private attorney, he doesn’t even argue the central case in this film.

Why would Hudlin appear turn away from the story of civil rights leader Marshall in favor of white, Jewish attorney Sam Friedman?  It seems this isn’t the well-known story of Marshall-the-attorney, but one that explores a lesser-known side of him.  Here, Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) shines as a brilliant recruiter and motivator.

In “Marshall“, Thurgood travels to Connecticut on behalf of the NAACP to defend Joseph Spell (Sterling K Brown) on a rape charge.  As he’s not a licensed attorney in the state, Marshall needs one to appear in court on his behalf, presenting a motion allowing him to argue before the court.  Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) reluctantly agrees, insisting that he’s through with the case afterwards.  The judge won’t allow Friedman to step down and forbids Marshall from speaking, effectively muzzling him in favor of an attorney who has never even tried a criminal case.

The surprise ruling means Marshall must motivate Friedman to defend their client, while teaching him the intricacies of criminal law.  Friedman becomes part of a movement he never intended to champion.  In fact, the film’s post script says he spent the rest of his life working as a civil rights advocate following this experience.

The real-life Friedman undoubtedly saw the parallels between what he faced as a Jewish attorney and the plight of his African-American client, a point that’s emphasized through repeated emphasis on how both suffer from racism and stereotypes.  The director ensures this connection is clear, with Marshall telling Friedman he’s “one of us”.

For more about “Marshall”, including some interesting stylistic choices, take a look below:

 

–>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Open Road Films.

VICTORIA AND ABDUL Star Interview and Full Review

Judi Dench has played so many queens that she should be honorary British royalty.  In Victoria & Abdul, the time period is 1887 and Queen Victoria (Dench) is floundering.  The most powerful woman in the world, she languishes from personal loss, sleeps through her own banquets and suffers the indignity of reporting her bowel movements.

Enter Abdul (Ali Fazal)–literally.  He’s honored with the job of presenting a ceremonial Indian coin to Queen Victoria alongside Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), a last-minute fill in who wants nothing to do with the task.  Following an arduous journey from India, the pair receive strict instructions about protocol.  They are props just as much as the coin.

After giving Queen Victoria the coin and backing away as etiquette dictates, Abdul breaks convention and locks eyes with the monarch.  A tense moment ensues: how will she react?  Declaring him handsome, the queen decides both men should stay and thus marks the beginning of their relationship over the final 15 years of the queen’s life.

The chemistry between Dench and Fazal is integral to the course of the film and the pair’s on-screen ambiguous relationship.  Why exactly is Queen Victoria so taken with Abdul, whom she elevates from servant to teacher/advisor over the course of their years together?  Is it a matter of physical attraction or something more?

There’s a beautiful moment in the film when the queen and Abdul dance together on the verandah.  An interview with Fazal reveals the words were scripted, but the action was not.  He says director Stephen Frears asked them to dance while saying their lines, a move that results in Fazal beginning by reaching out rather gracelessly–an entirely real moment that appears in the final cut of the film.

What didn’t make it into the film?  Dench and Fazal slapping their faces as a multitude of mosquitoes swarm them in a boat.  Fazal says even coming from a country like India where the pests are everywhere, these were intolerable.  The scene with the boat remains in the film, though Fazal can’t help but laugh in memory at the outtakes.

For more about Victoria & Abdul directly from Ali Fazal, along with a discussion about themes and symbolism in the film, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Focus Features.

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