16 March 2019

Breakthrough

Recently I attended a preview screening of the upcoming film BREAKTHROUGH. It is based on the book The Impossible by Joyce Smith, which chronicles the miraculous true story of her son's revival. Prayer is powerful.

Parents will be able to relate to Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz) whose son John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) falls through the ice while playing with his friends and stays in the freezing water for 15 minutes. The incident puts John into a coma and he is rescued by first responder Tommy Shine (Mike Colter), who seeks John with a determination even unexplainable to him. Doctors are doubtful John will awaken, but Joyce stays with John every day and prays. This causes some friction between Joyce and her husband Brian Smith (Josh Lucas). Brian has faith, but deals with the situation in a different manner than his wife.

The Smith's are referred to Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), who has more experience working with patients in John's condition. Dr. Garrett verifies that the likelihood for John's survival is slim. Joyce keeps praying anyway. In fact, many people in St. Louis, Missouri pray for John, especially his classmates who sing with conviction outside of John's hospital room in an emotional scene.

BREAKTHROUGH will be released in North American theatres on Wednesday, April 17th and in the Philippines on Wednesday, April 10th. The official Web site is https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/breakthrough.

16 February 2019

The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story

The words "The least of these..." are from Mathew 25:40: "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." The movie THE LEAST OF THESE: THE GRAHAM STAINES STORY illustrates the humility required for helping individuals in need. Graham Staines (Stephen Baldwin) is an Australian missionary in rural India with his wife (Shari Rigby) and children, and accused of converting leprosy patients to Christianity. After much speculation by people in town, journalist Manav Banerjee (Sharman Joshi) agrees to investigate undercover for a newspaper. This is the opportunity he needs since moving to the town of Orissa with his wife (Aditi Chengappa) who is expecting the couple's first child.

Manav develops a relationship with Graham and learns about his missionary work. Graham displays love, hope, and forgiveness in a country where his faith is not embraced and seen as illegal. During his investigation, Manav discovers what it means to have faith and humbly serve others. Unfortunately, his ambition gets in the way and he must make a decision, just as he sadly witnesses a tragic situation involving Graham and his two sons.

The movie is a compelling drama, and based on actual events from 1999 in India. THE LEAST OF THESE: THE GRAHAM STAINES STORY is currently playing in theatres in the United States and premieres in India on March 1st. The official Web site is https://theleastofthese.movie/.


13 February 2019

On the Basis of Sex

Felicity Jones gives an exceptional performance as United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX. Jones efficiently shows strength and determination throughout the story. Ginsburg attends Harvard Law School in the 1950's when there are few women students. Her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) is also a student at Harvard Law. When he falls ill, she attends both her and his classes. The couple's partnership also consists of raising their two children and working as joint counsel for a case that makes it possible for Ginsburg to practice law.

In the 1960's very few women practice law, so Ginsburg teaches law. She is not satisfied with this, and in 1970 when Martin discovers a tax law case involving a man named Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) who hires a nurse to help him care for his aging mother, Ruth accepts it.  Moritz is denied a tax deduction for the nursing care because the deduction is limited to "a woman, a widower or divorcee, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized," which is Section 214 of the Internal Revenue Code. The opportunity allows Ginsburg to overturn the law, which also challenges laws that discriminate against women. Additionally, she believes winning the case will start her career of practicing law.

In the United States landmark cases and laws have made it possible for school integration (Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, 1954) and voting rights for all (Voting Rights Act, 1965). In the 1970's Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes it possible for women to work in professions seen as only for men by successfully proving that a man is discriminated against on the basis of his sex. As society changes, the laws should change.

ON THE BASIS OF SEX is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://focusfeatures.com/on-the-basis-of-sex.

12 January 2019

Green Book

The Negro Motorist Green Book was an annual guidebook for African American road trippers. It was commonly referred to as Green Book. It was originated and published by Victor Hugo Green, a mailman in New York City, from 1936-1966. This was during the era of Jim Crow laws when open and legally prescribed discrimination against non-whites was widespread in the United States. The guide provided information about services and places (gas stations, motels, restaurants, etc.) relatively friendly to African Americans.

GREEN BOOK is a comedy-drama film about classical and jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) who hires a chauffeur, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen), for his concert tour of the Deep South. Tony is given a Green Book and studies which places he can take Dr. Shirley. The screenplay is written by Vallelonga's son Nick Vallelonga, Brian Hayes Currie, and the film's director Peter Farrelly.

At first glance, it is unique seeing a white Italian American driving a car with an African American in the backseat in 1962. There is even a scene where they stop, due to car trouble, in front of a farm where Black people are working in the fields. The workers are frozen and stare in amazement.

Overall, the writers' choice to make GREEN BOOK a comedy-drama offers an uncommon way to share a story about racism. As a result, the audience is able to get a sense of the time period and its troubles, but additionally focus on the unlikely friendship that develops between Dr. Shirley and Tony. The movie is inspired by the true story about the eventual, respectful relationship these men shared.

GREEN BOOK is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://www.universalpictures.com/movies/green-book.


03 January 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is a breath of fresh air. It is a romantic drama with an African American couple (KiKi Layne and Stephan James) at the story's center. Also, the movie shows how supportive some family members can be during a crisis.

Writer and director Barry Jenkins has done a phenomenal job with IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK. The movie is honest and pragmatic. Furthermore, the story is set in the 1970's, and James Baldwin's novel, which the screenplay is based, accurately illustrates racial discrimination. And sadly at present, not much has changed.

The cast, especially Regina King, and crew are outstanding. The musical score is exquisite. IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://bealestreet.movie/.




24 November 2018

Widows

WIDOWS has a racially diverse cast and female characters are prominently featured. A movie like this realistically represents American society. Viola Davis (Veronica Rawlings) plays a central character; Michelle Rodriguez (Linda Perelli) and Elizabeth Debicki (Alice Gunner) play the other widows who experience financial difficulty after their husbands pass away.

The three women resort to crime after Veronica is threatened by a politician named Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry). Daniel Kaluuya gives an excellent performance as Jatemme, Jamal's brother and mob enforcer. In fact, the entire cast is excellent. It is an impressive ensemble that includes Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, Liam Neeson, and Lukas Haas.

WIDOWS is directed and produced by Steve McQueen. The screenplay, based on the British crime drama television series Widows, is written by Gillian Flynn and Steve McQueen. Cinematographer Sean Bobbitt makes noteworthy artistic choices.

WIDOWS is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/widows.


17 October 2018

California Life Has a New Host

My travel-lifestyle series, California Life, has a new host. Sheila Ellis has starred in three episodes and in some promotional videos we created for the series. In Episode 2, Sheila visits Nevada City and Grass Valley:


Upcoming episodes include visits to Lincoln, Marysville, Wheatland, and Yuba City. Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel so that you do not miss any episodes: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJtOUanPr0e85fv7cWCyu4Q/featured. You may support us by contributing at https://ifundwomen.com/projects/california-life.

The official Web site for California Life is https://tdaentertainment.com/CaliforniaLife.htm. Local television stations will broadcast California Life soon. If you would like to watch California Life on one of your local TV stations, please contact us.


04 October 2018

The Bookshop

THE BOOKSHOP takes place in a quaint, coastal town. All seems ideal and the perfect location for Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) to open a bookshop. Florence is a widow and this is what she needs to work through her emotions and place her mind on other matters. Unexpectedly, the town recluse, Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), develops a friendship with Florence. He likes to read and she sells books.

It is disappointing that some people cannot stand seeing others happy. Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson) is a wealthy woman with a nephew in Parliament. Violet wants to set up an arts centre in the Old House where Florence's bookshop is located, so her nephew sponsors a bill that allows local councils to buy historical buildings.

THE BOOKSHOP is based on the novel of the same title written by Penelope Fitzgerald. The story allows its audience to become a part of the community in which the movie is set and be taken back to the simpler time of 1959. Anyone who has ever created something will identify with Florence and root for her success.

THE BOOKSHOP is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://www.bookshopthefilm.com/.

20 September 2018

The Wife

THE WIFE is based on the novel of the same title by Meg Wolitzer, and stars Glenn Close as Joan Castleman, the very supportive wife to her successful author husband, Professor Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). Joan walks with Joe every step of the way in their marriage and his writing career. Unfortunately, Joe's success makes him extremely arrogant and not always a faithful husband. When Joe is honored with the Nobel Prize, Joan's resentment shows. Many women probably will identify with Joan.

As always, Glenn Close's performance is exceptional. Her real life daughter, Annie Starke, plays a young Joan during her college years. Annie also gives a solid performance, along with the rest of the cast.

THE WIFE is an intellectual drama. The official Web site is http://sonyclassics.com/thewife/. The movie is currently playing in theatres.


10 September 2018

Operation Finale

OPERATION FINALE provides an opportunity for viewers to observe some events that happened after the Jewish Holocaust (1933-1945). Ben Kingsley plays Adolf Eichmann, a former SS officer now residing in Argentina. Israeli spies from the Mossad--Israel's intelligence agency--discover his whereabouts and capture him in 1960. Their goal is to have Eichmann testify to his crimes in a court of law. This is significant because others like Eichmann, including Adolf Hitler, committed suicide and never received punishment for their wrongdoing.

It is gratifying seeing someone brought to justice after having caused and been responsible for the suffering of millions of people. Eichmann's capture by Holocaust survivors does not bring back the many individuals who lost their lives, but does offer a bit of closure for the families whose loved ones were unjustly tortured and exterminated. OPERATION FINALE features a talented cast and is successful in allowing the audience to feel relief that someone admitted his atrocities and will now endure the effect of them.

OPERATION FINALE is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://tickets.operationfinalefilm.com/synopsis/.

22 August 2018

An Interview with God

Brenton Thwaites plays a journalist named Paul who interviews God (David Strathairn). They meet three times for Paul's article and have stimulating discussions. Many questions arise that most people have such as, 'Why do bad things happen to good people?' Also, Paul is confronted with conflicts in his life. The situations make him uncomfortable because God is supposed to be the subject and Paul, the journalist, is supposed to be professional by not making it about him. He especially becomes upset when God tells him He wants to talk about Paul's marriage. In fact, Paul and his wife Sarah (Yael Grobglas) are having problems.

The scenes between Paul and God are the best because most people probably do have many questions they want to ask God. The movie provides an opportunity for viewers to observe and consider what questions they would ask. This concept is immense; however, the story could have a larger impact if scenes are added that show Paul's editor Gary (Hill Harper) publishing the interview with God and people's reactions to it. This may not be the intention of the screenwriter or director, but would serve as a catalyst for an even stronger film beyond the wonder of being able to ask God questions.

AN INTERVIEW WITH GOD plays in theatres for three nights this week. The official Web site is https://aninterviewwithgod.com/. You can get updates about the movie and possibly learn about more screening dates.

06 July 2018

California Life

UPDATE: August 9, 2018 -- "California Life" is nominated for Best Web Series/Pilot Award by the Action on Film International Film Festival!  AOF MEGAFest 2018 is August 16-26 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I created and produce a travel-lifestyle television series titled California Life. Our theme is: "Traveling in California...searching for unique places." Our host is Aryn Rozelle.

Aryn shows viewers real estate, shopping, unique dining options, and more from various towns in California. For the most part, we will focus on small to mid-size towns because they have more to offer than just charm, and are the heart of the state. Besides, many people have probably watched programs about California cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. We want to show other places in California, and over time may visit the cities.

The official Web site for California Life is https://www.tdaentertainment.com/CaliforniaLife.htm.

Our YouTube Channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJtOUanPr0e85fv7cWCyu4Q/featured. We are looking forward to adding new episodes in the Fall.

The first town Aryn visits is Roseville. You can watch Episode 1 here:

05 July 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado

SICARIO is an excellent film; however, in 2015 I did not blog about it. Now I am grateful for the opportunity to write about the action thriller, SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO. Benicio del Toro returns as Alejandro Gillick, Josh Brolin returns as Matt Graver, and Jeffrey Donovan returns as Steve Forsing. Emily Blunt is not in this film, so her character, Kate Macer from SICARIO, is not part of the story. Instead Catherine Keener plays Cynthia Foards and fills the slot of a strong female presence.

The cast makes SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO a great movie. And, of course, Taylor Sheridan's screenplay is its strength. After watching both SICARIO movies and WIND RIVER, I am beginning to believe Sheridan is the contemporary Master of Suspense, which is a title given to the late filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. This point is debatable. At any rate, I will infer that Hitchcock would have enjoyed Sheridan's screenplays.

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is directed by Stefano Sollima. His movie is relevant because of real life current events about the U.S.-Mexico border. Watching what people go through to immigrate to America is intense. This is the feeling Sollima wants viewers to hold throughout the film and that is accomplished.

SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://www.sonypictures.com/movies/sicario2soldado/.

28 June 2018

Gotti

GOTTI is a fun movie. The film is cut (edited) in a way that keeps a serious subject light (by inserting some humor). The lively mood is also due to the splendid cast, including lead actor John Travolta, who plays John "Dapper Don" Gotti, the real life New York City mobster and Kelly Preston (Travolta's real life wife) who plays his wife, Victoria Gotti. In addition, the film stars Stacy Keach (Niel Dellacroce) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (Angelo Ruggiero).

GOTTI is written by Lem Dobbs and actor Leo Rossi, who plays Bobby Boriello. The movie is directed by actor and director Kevin Connolly, and covers the three decades that Gotti reigned as a crime boss. Also, viewers see how his son, John Gotti, Jr., played by Spencer Lofranco, is brought into the Gambino crime family. GOTTI is very different from most mob films, as it focuses more on Gotti as a family man and how his community acknowledges him for his generosity. However, his unmerciful crimes are shown.

GOTTI is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://gotti-movie.com/.



13 June 2018

First Reformed

FIRST REFORMED is a drama thriller movie that stars Ethan Hawke as Reverend Ernst Toller. Rev. Toller is depressed. His church membership and attendance are low, he loses his son who served in the armed forces, his health is bad, etc. But it is not completely clear any of these are reasons for his depression. The journal he writes indicates something is not right with him. And after counseling a parishioner's (Mary, played by Amanda Seyfried) activist husband (Philip Ettinger), he slowly unravels.

Pastor Jeffers' (Cedric Kyles) community, Abundant Life Church, partners with Rev. Toller's First Reformed Church. For example, Abundant Life Church hires a technician to fix the organ at First Reformed Church and they organize a service for First Reformed Church together. Pastor Jeffers does not initially realize Rev. Toller is depressed, but eventually discovers his odd behavior.

Rev. Toller is a friend to Mary, and able to be present when she calls on him. In their scenes, Rev. Toller appears stable. Ethan Hawke's performance is flawless and Amanda Seyfried is equally engaging. The Abundant Life Church choir is also very good. However, the movie's ending is ambiguous.

FIRST REFORMED is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://a24films.com/films/first-reformed.


24 May 2018

Book Club

BOOK CLUB is a comedy film starring Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen. The four actresses work well together and it is fun watching them interact with their male suitors played by Craig T. Nelson, Andy Garcia, Don Johnson, and Richard Dreyfuss.

For many years the four ladies have been friends and meet as a book club. They are all successful and each has her unique personality. Their lives are shaken by the latest book choice, Fifty Shades of Grey. The women begin talking about things they had not discussed in a long time. As a result, they begin making extraordinary choices when it comes to romance.

According to Fonda's blog, BOOK CLUB did not have a distributor when it finished filming. Fortunately, Paramount Pictures provided distribution.

Romance films showing women over 50 years old are rare. Perhaps more screenwriters will create adventures for the demographic because they are still viable and attract an enthusiastic audience.

BOOK CLUB is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.bookclub.movie/.

26 April 2018

Beirut

The 1983 Beirut bombings serve as a setting for the movie BEIRUT, starring Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike. In 1972 Mason Skiles (Hamm), a United States diplomat to Lebanon is living in Beirut with his wife Nadia (Leila Bekhti) and a 13-year old Lebanese boy they care for named Karim (Idir Chender). When Nadia and Mason are having a party, Nadia is killed during an attack when Karim is abducted by his brother Rami (Ben Affan). As a result, Mason leaves Beirut.

Ten years later Mason is approached to give a lecture in Lebanon. After the tragedy of losing his wife, he is hesitant to return to Beirut, but accepts the offer. When Mason arrives in Beirut, he meets State Department officials and discovers the real reason he was summoned. He agrees to work with CIA agent Sandy Crowder (Pike) to negotiate the release of his friend, CIA officer Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino), who was recently abducted.

BEIRUT is a spy thriller with remarkable performances and wonderful direction by Brad Anderson. Tony Gilroy's screenplay provides a credible connection to the Beirut bombings of 1983 when President Ronald Reagan kept a U.S. military force in Lebanon. The constant fear residents are living in is apparent, as they are persecuted for their beliefs and explosions abound. The destroyed buildings are evidence of a war atmosphere and city of unrest.

BEIRUT is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://bleeckerstreetmedia.com/beirut.

05 April 2018

God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness

GOD'S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is a drama film about a church located on a public university campus. Because of controversy, the university wants to tear down the church and make it a student community center, but the pastor, Reverend Dave (David A. R. White), insists he inherited the church from his father, it has been in its location for 100 years, and was in its place before the university existed. When the church is vandalized and a fire starts, killing Reverend Jude (Benjamin Onyango), the university demands the church be removed.

As a result, Reverend Dave seeks assistance from his brother, Pearce (John Corbett), who is an attorney. Pearce represents the church in the lawsuit, and spends time with his brother, staying in the home they lived in with their parents. The scenes that work very well in the movie are the ones with the two brothers, Dave and Pearce. Both actors give genuine performances.

Other conflicts include the university chancellor, Thomas (Ted McGinley). He and Dave are good friends, so the legal situation between the university and the church is tough on their relationship. Also, university student Keaton (Samantha Boscarino) struggles with her faith in God and breaks up with her boyfriend, Adam (Mike C. Manning), because he is unsure about God. Adam does not handle the break up well, and takes his frustration out on the church by vandalizing it and unknowingly starting a fire.

The Newsboys make an appearance in the movie. In addition, if you sit through the end credits you will hear Michael Tait's message. Lastly, Jennifer Taylor plays Meg, Dave's lady friend. The relationship provides Dave with an opportunity to share what is happening to him with someone who is not involved in the legal matters.

GOD'S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is https://godsnotdead.pureflix.com/.

28 March 2018

Paul, Apostle of Christ

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST is a film about Paul of Tarsus. His Jewish name is Saul, and he persecuted the Christian church. The New Testament book Acts illustrates Saul experiencing a conversion. Later on the island of Cyprus he is called Paul. Paul is author of 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament.

The film chronicles Paul's (played by James Faulkner) later years in a Roman prison during Emperor Nero's reign. Paul is seen as a threat to the Roman Empire and will be executed. This is a very dark time for Christians, and many, such as Aquilla (John Lynch) and his wife Priscilla (Joanne Whalley), lived in hiding out of fear of being burned like candles. Writer and director Andrew Hyatt captures this extremely well, as most of the movie is dark with very little light. Hyatt's direction is excellent and the cast is phenomenal.

Saint Luke, a physician, is played by Jim Caviezel (who many will recognize as the actor who portrays Jesus in THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST). Luke risks his life going inside Mamertine Prison to visit Paul. Christians view Paul as a highly respected apostle who is wise, and Luke writes his words, which later become the book of Acts. Paul's jailer, Mauritius (Olivier Martinez), is the one other person he communicates with, as Mauritius struggles to understand how Paul has such a powerful effect on so many people.

PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST is a relevant movie, because not only does it remind the audience that "where sin abounds, grace abounds more," the filmmakers dedicate it to Christians who are currently being persecuted in various parts of the world. PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.paulmovie.com/site/.

21 March 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

I looked forward to watching A WRINKLE IN TIME (2018), because I read the book by Madeleine L'Engle and taught it to sixth grade students. The novel helped students expand their vocabulary and discover the science fiction genre. They were also inspired by lessons the young characters learn in the story.

A WRINKLE IN TIME has a solid cast. Viewers see Oprah Winfrey (Mrs. Which) in a very different type of role from what she usually plays, and the young performers--Storm Reid (Meg), Levi Miller (Calvin), and Deric McCabe (Charles Wallace)--are outstanding. Reese Witherspoon is a good choice for the Mrs. Whatsit role, as Mindy Kaling is a good Mrs. Who.

Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell are the screenwriters who adapted the novel and focus on main points of the story: Meg is an awkward girl who other kids pick on at school. Her brother Charles Wallace is a precocious child. For the most part, both children are smart. Their parents (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris Pine) are scientists who discover a way to travel the universe by tesseract. It actually works, but their father is held captive and unable to return to earth. As a result, the children, with help from supernatural beings--Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Who--travel by tesseract to bring their father back home. One of the noticeable differences is Meg's twin brothers, Dennys and Sandy, are not in the film. Also, planet Ixchel is not shown; therefore, the Aunt Beast character is not in this adaptation. However, the themes of good versus evil and triumph of love are in the movie.

Overall, director Ava DuVernay provides a vision of the characters' lives and the planets Camazotz and Uriel. While reading the novel, one must imagine how these characters and places appear.  A WRINKLE IN TIME is currently playing in theatres.  The official Web site is http://movies.disney.com/a-wrinkle-in-time.


Breakthrough

Recently I attended a preview screening of the upcoming film BREAKTHROUGH. It is based on the book The Impossible by Joyce Smith, which chr...