Sunday, September 11, 2016

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley in Oliver Stone's cyberspace thriller "Snowden"

Stone’s exile in the desert of overheated irrelevance has now ended. “Snowden” isn’t just the director’s most exciting work since “Nixon” (1995) — it’s the most important and galvanizing political drama by an American filmmaker in years. It helps that Snowden, played with crisp magnetism by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is the furthest thing from a crusader. When we meet him, in 2004, he’s in basic training in the United States Army Reserve, but he’s not really the athletic military type. So he goes for the next best thing: a slot in the CIA, where the fight for U.S. security is already playing out on the battleground of the future — namely, cyberspace.

The movie doesn’t have the kaleidoscopic dazzle of Stone’s great ’90s films (“JFK,” “Natural Born Killers”), but it has his heady propulsive fever. You get the feeling, more than you did watching “Citizenfour,” that there was an honest terror beneath the proceedings — that given the subject of surveillance, the CIA might have burst in at any moment. But it’s not just about their safety. The stakes are so high because the theme of the interview, and the issue of whether they can publish it in the London-based newspaper The Guardian, is momentous. This is their one and only chance to expose the truth before Snowden disappears.

Gordon-Levitt does a meticulous impersonation of the Snowden manner: clipped and impeccable, his articulate, logical voice always trying to touch the reality of whatever he’s talking about. He’s certainly a geek, but with an important qualifier: He’s cool as a cucumber — free of any visible anxiety (or anger). At times, he’s like a very friendly automaton, but it’s not like he doesn’t have passion; as we’ll see, it just takes a lot to get him riled.

He also thinks he’s got everything figured out. On a dating site called Geek-Mate, Edward meets Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), a local girl who’s sweet-natured and hot-tempered at the same time. They connect from their first date, but they’ve got major differences. Lindsay, a little aimless but shrewd and informed, thinks the Iraq War is a corrupt disaster, whereas Edward believes he grasps the bigger picture: the defense of the United States, and the things that go into that, which liberals shield themselves from knowing (even though they want the benefits of protection, too). 

Edward and Lindsay’s political differences have a touch of screwball-comedy friction. When she figures out that he’s working for the Agency after having traced where his message came from, he says, “You know how to run an IP trace?” For him, that’s practically a love lyric. Woodley gives a performance of breathtaking dimension: As the movie goes on, she makes Lindsay supportive and selfish, loving and stricken. Edward is assigned to the National Security Agency, the division of U.S. intelligence devoted, essentially, to data-gathering. He’s dispatched to different locales (Geneva, Tokyo, Hawaii), and Lindsay goes to live with him in each one. 

At home, Edward puts a piece of tape over his webcam, because he realizes that someone could be looking at him (or Lindsay). He’s not paranoid; he’s just enlightened. He knows there’s something wrong with that; it’s spying evolving into Big Brother. Stone stages a fantastic scene in which Edward talks to Corbin, his boss and mentor, on a giant screen, and Rhys Ifans’ face looms up like some CIA version of the Wizard of Oz. He’s terrifying, especially when he reveals that he heard that conversation between Edward and his colleagues. He knows whether or not Lindsay is having an affair; he knows everything. By the time Edward decides to act, it’s because he can’t not act. Stone creates a powerful wake-up call. The real message of “Snowden” is that surveillance is a Pandora’s Box. You may leave the movie grateful for everything that Edward Snowden brought to light, but also wondering if that box can ever be closed. Source:

Friday, September 09, 2016

Shailene Woodley not keen on Ascendant TV show, Ostracism in contemporary America

Lionsgate cut the budget for the fourth film, Ascendant, and announced plans to complete the franchise with a TV movie – leaving room for a spinoff series to continue telling stories within the world of Divergent. But, the cast of the Divergent films have not been confirmed to return for the TV movie, and the franchise’s star, Shailene Woodley previously said she hadn’t been warned about the change from film to television prior to its announcement. 

In an interview with Screen Rant while promoting Snowden, Woodley was asked whether there’s been an update on Ascendant and whether she’s on board with the final Divergent film. She said: "Last I heard they were trying to make it into a television show. I didn’t sign up to be in a television show. Out of respect to the studio and everyone in involved, they may have changed their mind and may be doing something different, but I’m not necessarily interested in doing a television show." When Woodley previously commented on the news that Divergent: Ascendant would be released on TV, the actress didn’t give an answer either way about whether she’d be up to return. 

When fellow Divergent star Miles Teller was asked about his intention to reprise his role as Peter, he had a similar answer of holding off any decision until he found out the details of the changed project. The actors involved in the Divergent franchise signed on for a final film that would be released in theaters, but since Lionsgate changed that plan, the actors may choose to part ways with the series. If that happens the studio would likely need to recast many of the major roles, perhaps with stars that would be up to return for the potential spinoff series. Given Woodley’s comment it seems likely she won’t return for the TV movie – though that may not be final. With so little known about what form Ascendant will take going forward it remains to be seen how exactly the studio wraps up the Divergent franchise, and/or continues it on television. Source:

There is a focus in the world of Divergent upon a community in which being alone, or “factionless,” would be worse than death, for factionlessness means homelessness, poverty, and ostracism – to avoid this fate, people must choose and subscribe to the identities of the five factions. In Divergent, uniforms work more conventionally, with each faction wearing clothing fitting for their virtue, yet these uniforms perpetuate the theme of physical appearance coding for identity. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late. Source:

Some people have to deal with being ostracized on a daily basis. For any of several reasons, they are shunned by those near them and isolated from social circles that would otherwise be available. Being excluded and ignored has a negative effect on many aspects of social, physiological and psychological functioning. For example, people may become dishonest, cognitive abilities may decline over time, negative affect increases and harmful behaviors become more common. Ostracism appears to be linked with risky decision-making behaviors, but there is still much to learn about the nature of the relationship. Source:

According to some industry rumor gossip (Crazy Days and Nights Blind Item #11 July 2016), Shailene Woodley being seen holding hands with 'gal pal' actress Isidora Goreshter on Valentine's Day lead Lionsgate to panick and they threatened to ostracize her if she didn't deny their relationship. These insiders felt that "She cracked open the door in her closet and the studio basically shamed her and accused of trying to sabotage the Divergent franchise." 

Tris has to leave an Eden of some sort behind. Life isn’t the same for her after she leaves Abnegation. But the bulk of the movie is a very socially-charged statement that makes parallels to contemporary America. It tells us we’re a country deeply divided into factions. And who’s winning? The technocrats and the military who form an alliance and use surveillance and military might to rule. The ideas of humility and modesty represented by the Abnegation are being overrun. As in America now, there’s a near worship of technology while at the same time a feeling that more selfless virtues are vanishing.  It may not be as well-paced as “The Hunger Games,” or cover as much territory, but "Divergent" is a powerful story that tells us how we’re losing our soul and mojo now in contemporary America.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Shia Labeouf and Miles Teller: back to their roots

In Damien Chazelle’s new musical La La Land, which just earned rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling sing, dance, and fall in love. It’s the actors’ third film together, after Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, but when Chazelle first got the project off the ground, neither actor was involved: Instead, he’d cast his Whiplash star Miles Teller opposite Harry Potter actress Emma Watson. That Gosling and Stone came to lead the film feels preordained, but it’s another example of the tenuous art of casting: Many movies almost get made with totally different actors starring, while sometimes the performers who nearly missed the cut for a big role present an intriguing notion of what might have been.

Warren Beatty works at his own deliberate pace, so when he first put together his Howard Hughes comedy Rules Don’t Apply, in 2011, Felicity Jones was cast as the female lead and Beatty met with actors like Shia LaBeouf and Andrew Garfield to play her paramour. After production delays and a studio shuffle, though, Beatty finally shot the film in 2014 with Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich (your new Han Solo) as the leads. Source:

“American Honey” director Andrea Arnold, who generally works with unknown actors, brushed off warnings not to cast LaBeouf in her low-budget film. Drawn to his earlier performance in “Transformers,” she met the actor for the first time several years ago in a café near her home outside London. The next time she saw him was in New York, on the morning after his “Cabaret” arrest, coming from jail and carrying his shoelaces in his hands. “I can never forget his face,” Arnold says. “He was hurting. He was very quiet.”  Arnold never gave LaBeouf a script, just a black and white picture of a forest for inspiration.

“American Honey” offers another milestone for the actor. It’s a performance that started generating Oscar buzz out of Cannes. But he scoffs at the awards chatter. “Nah, dude, not me,” says LaBeouf, who still hasn’t been invited into the Academy, despite having appeared in 30 movies. “The Oscars are about politics. It’s not about who is the best.” The career trajectory he was on as an A-list leading man doesn’t really exist anymore. Instead, he has joined a generation of actors —Jake Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart— who have bypassed studio movies for indies. LaBeouf admits that he’s no longer on Hollywood’s wish list for major blockbusters. David Ayer approached him for “Suicide Squad,” for a role that eventually went to Scott Eastwood. LaBeouf says the studio vetoed his casting. “I don’t think Warner Bros. wanted me. I went in to meet and they were like, ‘Nah, you’re crazy.’ It was a big investment for them.”

Labeouf thought Spielberg would be his ticket to a big-screen legacy. “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of,” LaBeouf says. “You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a f–king company.” (Spielberg declined to comment). LaBeouf felt like there was no room to grow as an actor, and that he was stuck. “Spielberg’s sets are very different,” he says. “Everything has been so meticulously planned. You do that for five years, you start to feel like not knowing what you’re doing for a living.”

It was around this time that he started drinking heavily. “Part of it was posturing,” LaBeouf says. “I never knew how to drink. I never liked to drink. It was a weird post-modern fascination with the f–k-ups.” LaBeouf says that his latest adventure gave him the chance to feel what he’s been chasing—human connection. “You float with people,” he says. “You’ve got to stay malleable.” Source:

Here’s a brief synopsis of a dye job gone horribly wrong. The person of interest: Miles Teller. The time of incident: Spotted at the ESPYs in July. The embarrassing crime: Botching a blonde dye job. The public reaction: Sheer mockery. Thankfully, Teller’s unfortunate dye job from earlier this summer is now officially a thing of the past. The hair hue change was done in part to help transform Teller into a role for Joseph Kosinski’s movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The film covers the story of 20 firefighters who fought the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 and Teller plays the sole survivor who has — you guessed it — blonde hair, according to Entertainment Weekly.

Now with filming wrapped up, though, Miles Teller has gone back to his roots (his brunette hair). He recognizes, too, the wrong he did in switching up his hair and has offered an apology to the public: “Dear Internet, I’m sorry I dyed my hair blonde,” he wrote on Twitter. “I never meant to hurt you. Please accept this apology.” All is forgiven, Teller. Source:

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Bleed for This (Miles Teller) - Telluride Reviews

“Bleed for This” stars Miles Teller as the boxer who simply wouldn’t quit — the “Pazmanian Devil” who agreed to wear a painful halo brace for six months in hopes that he might heal enough to defend his world-champion title. Teller is terrific, which should come as no surprise to “Whiplash” fans. Ben Younger here finds a piece of material that’s a great fit for his macho, high-energy style — and could soon be the biggest hit of his career. Still, all eyes are on Teller in a role that powerfully reinforces what a charismatic performer he is, whether pummeling an opponent in the ring or flirting with any woman who crosses his path.Teller takes us there, past the bruises and facial scars (makeup mixed with his own), to reveal the fire behind the fighter. Source:

Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart attend the Telluride Film Festival on September 3, 2016, in Colorado.

It’s hard to find a genre more cliché-festooned than the boxing film. Ben Younger knows that, and doesn’t so much avoid those clichés as try to artfully re-arrange them the best that he can. But Miles Teller delivers something better than the sum of the film’s clichés. With his bulked-up physique, wispy pencil-thin mustache, and slightly dim reckless intensity, he turns what could have been a cartoon into a real person. Aaron Eckhart, as his hangover-prone trainer, also turns a familiar archetype into a character with three full dimensions. Source:

With executive producer Martin Scorsese figuratively looking over his shoulder, Ben Younger injects the action with as much visual and performance juice as he can muster, stirring interest in a crude, emotionally imprudent and severely flawed man (much as Scorsese often has) and serving up a thick slice of specific ethnic family ways—Rhode Island working class Catholics the likes of which haven’t been much seen onscreen since David O. Russell’s The Fighter six years ago.

As maniacally as he took drum playing to the limit in ‘Whiplash,’ Teller fights ‘til he wins or drops here. His intensity and determination levels are extreme, his proclivity for reckless, unthinking behavior just a bit less so, and the actor cuts a convincing boxer’s figure in the many scenes of training and combat.” Source:

Whiplash feels like young Scorsese—hungry, ambitious, well disciplined, superbly cut. Chazelle understands that good filmmaking means showing command and locking into in the groove—tempo, timing, spirit, pulse. It’s a brash but out-there film that’s necessarily mad and manic. Teller's Andrew is vulnerable, anguished, charismatic, thoughtful. He really doesn’t want to be like his kindly, failed-writer dad (Paul Reiser), and he can’t find peace with a pretty girl (Melissa Benoist) because she isn’t as consumed as he is. Andrew just wants to wail like a champ, and this is how almost all great musicians are. Young Brian Wilson became a self-taught pianist in Hawthorne by playing every day like a crazy man, and ignoring the usual high-school stuff. Source:

I was heading down the escalator inside the Chinese/Dolby complex, heading for the orange level in the parking garage. I noticed this shapely ginger-haired girl with some big-shouldered, dark-haired guy standing behind her. Then I realized the guy, who was wearing a powder-blue shirt of some kind, was Miles Teller…. Then ginger girl dropped something and bent over to pick it up just as she and Teller were passing me, and I couldn’t resist checking out. She wasn’t looking so what the hell… right? Except Teller was looking at me. And then the humiliation: “Don’t be a pervert, man.” And he kind of bellowed it. Shamed, I tried a little “oh, no, man… I was just… you know, you and Damien Chazelle… I’m on the team!” But Teller wouldn’t back off, he kept looking at me like I was scum. Typical guy thing: “Hey man, she might be hot but I’m with her so avert your fucking eyes, and keep them averted!” Just another over-protective boyfriend flashing his alpha dominance. The irony is that I never gape at women shamelessly. Teller’s girlfriend Keleigh Sperry was the one I was subtly eyeballing. (Not subtly enough, I mean.)  Teller is cool enough, a serious actor. He is Mitchum, in a way. —Jeffrey Wells in Hollywood Elsewhere 

“I was excited to play the straight guy who actually has more of a moral compass,” Miles Teller recently told IndieWire of his role as David Packouz in War Dogs. “Those aren’t always the parts you’re getting. It’s rare to get a script for [roles for] guys in their young twenties that are actually doing things with big responsibility or a more mature tone.”

“For a lot of the projects I’ve done, it’s taken some foresight and some faith by the director,” Teller said. “When Ben cast me in ‘Bleed For This,’ I think I was just coming off ‘That Awkward Moment’ or something where I’m literally the pale, goofy friend. I don’t think many people had me on a short list to play a five-time world champion Italian boxer.”

“I remember the first project that I was legitimately bummed about. The first thing that I thought I was going to get and I didn’t and I was bummed out was ‘The Descendants.'” Teller read for the role of Sid, the stoner boyfriend of Shailene Woodley’s character, going so far as auditioning for director Alexander Payne, before being beat out by Nick Krause. Even though the memory still stings, Teller has a relaxed attitude towards how things panned out. After all, for Teller, it all comes down to one simple aim: “I just always wanted to be versatile.” Source:

David and Efraim are not friends. It’s not friendship. It’s just business. Teller then punches Hill in the face — and one gets the sense here that his David might as well be Todd Phillips himself. One senses that, after a career of playing the cool kid, and of celebrating his jerks as his heroes, Todd Phillips is finally ready to focus on the straight man and the moral center. That, in ostensibly making his Drama About Business, Todd Phillips has finally managed to make his Comedy About Friendship. And that, after all of these years, and all of those movies, Todd Phillips has finally figured out just what it is about friendship he has to say: ‘Don’t be a fucking dick.’ Source:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"La La Land" Trailer, "Thank You For Your Service" documentary

La La Land is not only is a love letter to movies, to movie musicals, to romance, and to Los Angeles, but it is also an ode to people with a dream. It is a movie that has roots in Hollywood’s storied past and the golden era of such MGM musicals as Singin’ In The Rain and The Bandwagon, but also as a valentine to the French musicals of Jacques Demy and Michel LeGrand — specifically The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg and The Young Girls Of Rochefort

The last purely original musical written for the screen to take Best Picture was Vincente Minnelli’s Gigi in 1958. Minnelli’s films, along with Demy’s and others, were pure inspiration for Chazelle. 

“I remember when I saw The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg for the first time,” he said. “I had never seen a musical that was just as kind of high-flying as the sort of MGM style that it was borrowing from, but dealing with both the highs and lows. There’s something  just so beautiful  and poetic about it, and it’s still probably my favorite movie ever. So I feel like La La Land kind of started there.”

Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, an aspiring jazz pianist who meets Emma Stone’s character Mia, a waitress working on the Warner Bros lot who aspires to be an actress. Both are superb, showing great musical skills, with Gosling even learning how to play excellent jazz riffs on the piano. The film details the ups and downs of their relationship as each pursues their dreams in the not-always-kind town of Los Angeles. 

Whiplash (starring Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman) worked out nicely, winning big at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and eventually receiving six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. It won three Oscars and launched Chazelle’s film career into the stratosphere. 

Chazelle added that his dad’s side of the family is all French, like Demy, and he kind of sees what L.A. is like to them. “It’s almost the embodiment of the romantic idea of America, you know, the freeways that go on to infinity, the big horizon, the big sky, the beach, Hollywood, you know the whole thing is so larger than life and so kind of iconic America in their mind. There’s a lot to play with there.” Source:

"An American in Paris" (1952) directed by Vincente Minnelli, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

"La La Land" (2016) directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

La La Land (One of the Most Anticipated New Films of the 2016-17 Oscar Season): With his sophomore effort “Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle proved to be a formidable talent. All eyes are on his follow-up, a musical love letter to Los Angeles set to open this year’s Venice Film Festival. It’s an ambitious genre to tackle these days, but if he handles it with half the aplomb of his 2014 Oscar winner, expect fireworks. Source:

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will co-sponsor a special screening of "Thank You for Your Service," an award-winning documentary that explores the nation's superficial understanding of war trauma, including PTSD, and the flawed policies surrounding it. The movie will be shown on Wednesday, September 7th beginning 6:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Stage Theatre, 360 Hamilton Street, in Rahway.

The film is being presented as part of Chairman Bergen's UC HERO initiative for 2016, which assists Veterans. The movie has been called "gripping, wrenching, and persuasive" by the Village Voice and "a film every American should see" by the Star Ledger. The Military Times said it is "generating Oscar buzz." The documentary is currently being shown at film festivals around the country, and is scheduled for theatrical release in early October. It won "Best Documentary at the GI Film Festival in DC, and the "Impact Award" at the Illuminate Festival. Source:

Miles Teller as Adam Schumann in "Thank You For Your Service" (2017) directed by Jason Hall.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shailene Woodley "She's Like a Rainbow" video

A video dedicated to the beautiful and talented actress Shailene Woodley. Soundtrack: "She's Like a Rainbow" by The Rolling Stones, "My Girl" by The Temptations, "My Girl" cover by The Jesus & Mary Chain, "She's not You" & "Stuck on You" by Elvis Presley, and "Baby Baby" by The Vibrators. 

“There is no envy, jealousy, or hatred between the different colors of the rainbow. And no fear either. Because each one exists to make the others’ love more beautiful.” ―Aberjhani, Journey through the Power of the Rainbow: Quotations from a Life Made Out of Poetry

"The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." Audrey Hepburn