Tag Archive | Movie Poster

Movie Review: I, Tonya

Official I Tonya Poster
All Images Courtesy of Cinetic Media PR

“America, they want someone to love; but they want someone to hate, too.” These words, concisely distilling the public’s obsession with celebrity scandal, are spoken by Tonya Harding, former Olympic figure skater and one-time champion competitor, in director Craig Gillespie’s outstanding new biopic, I, Tonya. For those who are late to the game; back in 1994, Harding found herself at the center of one of the most sensational scandals in sports history after being linked to a physical attack on her teammate Nancy Kerrigan shortly before the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. In the seemingly endless media circus that surrounded ‘the incident’ (as it is referred to in the film) and its far-reaching consequences, Tonya Harding became a walking punch line and arguably the most-hated woman in America. In the aftermath, she was sentenced by the court to probation, community service, ordered to pay a large fine, and forced to resign from the United States Figure Skating Association, effectively ending her career. Twenty three years later, I, Tonya gives Harding a compelling confessional with which to tell the whole sordid story, and it is a tale based on true events that’s as crazy as any absurdist, darkly comic fiction you could make up.

I Tonya Jeff and Tonya Young
Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) with Tonya as a Newly-Dating Couple.

With a tight script based on dialogue from recent interviews by the director with both Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, plus archived interviews, You Tube videos and meticulous research, I, Tonya traces Harding’s life and career from age 4 to 44.  Growing up in a broken home (her mother’s fifth child from her fourth marriage) Harding’s focused passion for skating took her out of her reality of incessant beratement by her stage-mother-from-hell, LaVona Golden (an astounding performance by Allison Janney) and transformed her into a disciplined athlete who didn’t take any shit from anybody. Performing in homemade costumes because she couldn’t afford to buy them, and constantly standing up for her right to compete and be judged on her ability despite not fitting the mold of a squeaky clean all-American girl, it’s exhilarating to watch her come up in the sport (Harding was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition) while gaining a voyeuristic perspective on the circumstances that shaped her complicated character.

I Tonya Allison Janney
Allison Janney Steals Every Scene She’s in as Tonya’a Mother, LaVonna Golden

As Harding hones her craft and becomes an increasingly successful, award-winning competitor, her already volatile relationship with Gilooly becomes even more physically abusive, and the film’s depiction of domestic violence is very realistic, harrowing and difficult to watch. By the time Gilooly and his half-witted friend Shawn Eckardt (Paul Walter Hauser) begin brainstorming a plan that will ‘intimidate’ Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan, who is perceived as Harding’s stiffest competition for Olympic Gold, it is already too late to stop the downward spiral.

I Tonya Cast at Rink
Jeff, Tonya and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) first hear of the attack on Kerrigan

Despite the violence and serious subject matter, I Tonya is a wildly enjoyable ride, filled with many hilarious moments thanks to the absurdist situations and excellent comic timing from the top-shelf group of actors cast in this strange-but-true story. A well-curated film soundtrack can always advance the action and evoke keen emotions in ways that dialogue alone cannot, so it’s worth noting that, along with a terrific original score by Peter Nashel, I, Tonya makes brilliant use of popular radio hits of the era such as Cliff Richard’s “Devil Woman,” Hot Chocolate’s “Everyone’s a Winner,” Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover of Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” sound tracking the film’s closing credits as they scroll over archival footage of  Tonya Harding skating in competition, which is unexpectedly quite moving.

Expect I, Tonya to garner a considerable number of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Robbie and Best Supporting Actress for Janney (at the very least), and Best Director.

Opening Nationally on Friday December 8th, 2017, The Worley Gig Gives I, Tonya Five out of Five Stars. Watch the Trailer Below:

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Movie Review: Dan Stevens Stars in The Ticket

The Ticket Movie Poster

If you’re a fan of Dan Stevens from his tenure on the period drama series, Downton Abbey, not to mention (but you can see I am about to) his current roles in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the hit TV series Legion, you can get another fix of the wildly popular British actor in a new independent film, The Ticket. As the first American film directed by Ido Fluk (Never Too Late) The Ticket offers an intimate, engaging  and well-acted take on a familiar cautionary tale. James (Stevens) has been blind since childhood due to an inoperable pituitary tumor pressing on his optic nerve. Despite his blindness, he appears to enjoy a good life; being happily married to Sam (Malin Ackerman) and father to a 13 year-old son, Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). James also works at a Real Estate firm making cold sales calls with a group of other blind employees that includes his close friend, Bob (Oliver Platt). There’s no reason to think that James‘ life isn’t as fulfilling and productive as a sighted person, until his circumstances change drastically.

James‘ eyesight suddenly returns shortly after the film’s opening credits sequence, which plays out over a playful morning conversation with Sam as they lay in bed. Set against a dark screen that is occasionally punctuated by a brief mix of faded shadows and light, this montage is highly effective in putting the viewer inside James‘ world as a blind man. But by the time that James makes his way into the bathroom for his morning shower, he sees his adult reflection in the mirror for the first time. At this point, the plot of The Ticket might be described as Awakenings meets 99 Homes, as James becomes almost frantically driven to make up for opportunities lost due to his blindness, and get what he feels he deserves as a sighted man.

The Ticket James and Son
James bonds with his son (Skylar Gaertner) while swimming in one of the film’s best scenes

With his vision restored, James is no longer content to work the phones in the office, and makes a pitch to the firm’s executives to launch an ambitious but ethically dubious marketing campaign which Bob immediately sees as a scam. He also becomes increasing preoccupied with his appearance; preening over his hair and investing in tailored suits to fit in better with the professional group of his co-workers that he aspires to join. As he butts heads with Sam over his desire to branch out into new activities,  while she prefers to stay in their comfortable routine (going dancing at a social center frequented by blind people, which is where the two first met), he also develops a wandering eye.

The Ticket James and Lover
Kerry Bishe and Dan Stevens in a scene from The Ticket

Actress Kerry Bishe (the best thing about AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire) is terrific as Jessica, James’ previously unattainable co-worker with whom he pursues an impulsive affair. By the time Sam tells James that if he leaves her, he can’t come back, he is too ‘blinded” by his own misguided ambition to stop the progress of a swiftly moving downward spiral of his own creation.

Because his sight returns so early in the film, we don’t get to experience much of Jamescharacter (or lack thereof)  while he is actually blind, so a degree of  imaginative extrapolation is necessary to surmise whether or not James was always a self-centered dick, or if his growth curve towards dick-ishness was just extremely steep. It’s hard not to empathize with his situation, but his careless selfishness doesn’t make him the most sympathetic protagonist. A fuller backstory showing James living his life and interacting with his loved ones while blind would have been helpful in clarifying the story’s point of view.

The title, The Ticket,  refers to a story that James repeats like a mantra during the film, whose message  boils down to how living life without taking action is like hoping to win the lottery without ever buying a ticket: you have to be “in it to win it.” Ultimately, The Ticket is a good —  not great —  low-key drama that effectively creates emotionally honest interpersonal scenarios, but once the ending  that can be seen coming from a mile away finally hits, you may feel like the writer should have spent a bit more time on the script. That said, it’s definitely recommended for fans of Dan Stevens, or any of the actors involved.

The Worley Gig Gives The Ticket 3 1/2 out of  5 Stars!

The Ticket Opens on April 7th, 2017 and will be playing in New York City at the Cinema Village on Second Avenue and 12th Street. The Ticket will also available On-Demand everywhere on that date. The Ticket in Unrated but OK for teenagers (kids will be bored) and has a runtime of 97 minutes.

Movie Review: Raw

Raw Movie Poster

If you enjoyed Netflix’s cannibal-themed comedy series, The Santa Clarita Diet, but just wish it featured more of the erotic sexual violence seen in the 2001 thriller Trouble Every Day, while also dishing up a plot that is more deeply-steeped in body horror, dark family secrets, and general fucked-up-edness, a new French horror film, Raw, may satisfy that craving. Raw, the debut feature film from director Julia Ducournau, tells the unconventional coming-of-age story of Justine, a pretty but sheltered teen who is starting her freshman year at veterinary college. Justine’s older sister, Alexia, also attends the school, and it is soon revealed that both of the girls’ parents are alumni as well.

Raised in a family of strict vegetarians, Justine has never even tasted meat. When she is unable to back out of a hazing ritual involving the consumption of a raw rabbit kidney, the act triggers an immediate and alarming metamorphosis within the young student that is both physical and temperamental in nature.

raw-justine-chicken-still

Attempting to juggle her class schedule while simultaneously enduring the incessant bullying of her upperclassmen peers, Justine finds herself suffering from an acute sickness that the school’s doctor brushes off as food poisoning. In short order, she abandons her vegetarian diet in search of flesh, and also undergoes a sexual awakening when she finds herself irresistibly attracted to her hunky gay roommate Adrien.  When the two finally do get it on, the frenzied encounter plays out as one of the most harrowing sex scenes ever committed to celluloid!

Foreign films always seem to have an edge over American cinema when it comes to creating an effective atmosphere of creeping dread, in which the viewer becomes uncertain whether what is shown on screen is actually happening, or is just a manifestation of a character’s imagination — and Raw succeeds wildly in providing just enough subterfuge to keep you guessing until the very last scene as to what exactly is driving Justine’s insatiable new hunger.

There are many grisly, Cronenberg-esque scenes in Raw, but nothing the average horror film aficionado can’t stomach. The film also boasts terrific acting performances by the three leads; Garance Marillier as JustineElla Rumpf as Alexia, and Rabah Naït Oufella as Adrien. I look forward to watching other films featuring these actors. Recommended if you dig films like Carrie, The Hunger and We Are What We Are, The Worley Gig Gives Raw 4 out of 5 Stars!

With a run time of 98 minutes, in French with English Subtitles, Raw opens nationwide on March 10th, 2017. In NYC, the film opens at the Angelika Film Center, featuring Q&As on Thursday 3/9 following the 8pm show & Friday 3/10 following the 7:10pm show with Director Julia Ducournau and actress Garance Marillier. Details are at This Link.

Watch the Trailer Below:

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Recommended Viewing: Author: The JT LeRoy Story

JT Leroy Story Movie Poster
All Images Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

If you enjoy the slow reveal of a real-life mystery that unfolds with greater intrigue and a higher ‘WTF’ factor than the most oblique, multi-layered David Fincher script, then Author: The JT LeRoy Story is your wet dream of a documentary film. Author is the true story of wunderkind picaresque novelist JT LeRoy and the elaborate machinations behind the facade that disguised the Literary Hoax of the Century. Because, despite being one of the most popular and critically lauded writers of an entire decade (1996 to 2006), JT LeRoy never existed: he was merely an elaborate persona created by author Laura Albert  to take credit for stories she wrote from the perspective of an emotionally and psychologically traumatize teenage boy. When the JT LeRoy books reached a level of mega-success that required LeRoy to do press and make personal appearances, Albert got to work on fabricating one of the most brilliant and convoluted schemes ever conceived in the mind of someone who was hiding behind a pretty hefty stack of neuroses.

JT and Laura
Savannah Knoop as JT LeRoy, with Laura Albert as Speedy

Backed into a corner, Albert, with assistance from her husband Greg Knoop and sister-in-law Savannah Knoop, created a physical world that JT LeRoy could move around in, with Savannah portraying JT in public (Albert had already been impersonating him on the phone for years)  and Greg playing the part of JT’s lover/roommate, Asher. Albert took on the role of JT’s handler/sidekick, the British-accented ‘Speedy‘ (Albert is American). Together, the trio fooled everyone.

JT and Bono
JT and Bono

What makes Author: The JT LeRoy story such a complete success is that you don’t need to know anything about the backstory coming into it, to become thoroughly transported into the world of Laura Albert’s dual realities, and to stay engaged and outraged as those world’s fall apart over the course of two hours.  This film is just amazing on so many levels. There’s no doubt that Albert is, well, crazy; but that doesn’t make her any less of a creative genius. The lengths that Albert and her family went to to keep the JT LeRoy ruse alive, and the degree to which dozens — if not hundreds — of huge celebrities were either authentically duped, or, like Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan, were just playing along is nothing short of mind blowing.

JT Michael Pitt Gus Van Sant
Actor Michael Pitt, JT and Film Director Gus Van Sant

Currently, Author: The JT LeRoy Story is tied with Wiener as the best documentary I’ve seen so far this year.

The Worley Gig Gives Author: The JT LeRoy Story Five out of Five Stars!

Author: The JT LeRoy Story Hits Theaters on September 9th, 2016 and will be Showing in NYC at both the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe Theatre. Directed by Jeff Feuerzeig, the Film has a Running Time of 110 Minutes. Watch the Trailer Below!

Morrison Hotel Gallery Presents: D.A. Pennebaker – Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back

Don't Look Back Poster
All Event Photos By Gail

In 1965, Filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker released his enduring documentary, Don’t Look Back, which follows a young Bob Dylan emerging into worldwide prominence as the singer/songwriter of his generation. Maybe you weren’t born yet, but I was. In celebration of the 50-year anniversary of this now-legendary film – one which brings together an already iconic artist and a filmmaker who was in the process of revolutionizing the documentary, Morrison Hotel Gallery is currently hosting Don’t Look Back, a collection of photos taken of Dylan by Pennebaker during filming.

Bob Dylan

The show is thoughtfully curated and produced by industry vet Joseph Baldassare – in conjunction with MHG – and has the distinction of being the first gallery exhibit of Pennebaker’s work.

Dylan with Lyric Cards

The show features original movie posters and 18 choice image stills from the film, printed from the enhanced negative. Pennebaker, now 90 years of age, was at the opening reception and he looked great. To this day, he remains a vital cultural force. He recently screened his newest documentary, Unlocking The Cage, at The Sundance Film Festival, which will air on HBO later this year

Dylan with Donovan
Bob Dylan with Singer/Songwriter Donovan

Dylan Limo

Pennebaker and Gang
Pennebaker (Far Left) with Gallery Owners Peter Blachley (to his Right) and Henry Diltz (Center) and Fans

Says Baldassare about the show, “This exhibition at Morrison Hotel Gallery is a celebration of the artistry of both D.A Pennebaker and Bob Dylan – two pioneers that have shaped the way we see, hear and think.”

D.A. Pennebaker’s Photos from Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back, will be on Exhibit Through June 14th, 2016 at Morrison Hotel Gallery, Located at 116 Prince Street in SoHo, NYC.

Bob Dylan Exhibit Signage

Family-Friendly Animated Holiday Film HOLY NIGHT! Available Free on YouTube!

Holy Night Movie Poster

If you’re the parent of small children and are looking for a fresh and fun Christmas film to watch with them, you might want to check out HOLY NIGHT! A family-friendly adventure film appropriate for children of all ages, HOLY NIGHT! takes place on Christmas Eve. Two toy worlds live together in the living room of a house. Two traditions confronted. On one side, the Christmas tree, home of Santa Claus and his elves. On the other, the Nativity Scene with the Three Wise Men and the rest of its inhabitants.

Holy Night Still 2

When everyone is ready to celebrate a quiet Christmas the alarm goes off: somebody has stolen Santa’s sleigh and Baby Jesus has been kidnapped! Follow our heroes, Sam and Sarah, in an incredible adventure to save the most magical night of the year! Sounds like fun, right?

Watch it now for Free at This Link!

Holy Night Still

Movie Review: The Film Critic (El Critico )

FILM CRITIC Poster

A film critic whose intolerance for cliché-ridden, formulaic Hollywood romances has earned him a reputation as a merciless film curmudgeon experiences a kind of existential crisis when he falls hard for beautiful, mercurial woman in Writer/Director Hernán Gerschuny’s Argentinian comedy The Film Critic (El Critico). This fast paced, sharply written and well-acted film will entertain anyone who loves movies but also enjoys a hilarious, insider jab at the filmmaking industry.

The Film Critic - 5

Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) is a popular film citric who feels that the main responsibility of his job is to help the audience discern “Art from Schlock.” Tellez spends his days in dark screening rooms with his fellow critics, with whom he then retreats to a favorite local café to discuss what they’ve just seen ad nauseum. Tellez is so pretentious that, while he speaks Spanish, he thinks in French (thus the film is in both French and Spanish with English subtitles), which is hilarious in itself.

When Tellez goes to see an apartment that he hopes to rent, he meets the very enigmatic and sassy Sofia (played by Dolores Fonzi, who bears a striking resemblance to Mila Kunis), who has beat him out as the next potential tenant by arriving on the scene before him. Through his relentless attempt’s to convince her to let him have the apartment, Victor is unexpectedly charmed by this lady, the likes of whom he’s not met before.

The Film Critic - 2

As Victor finds himself falling hard for Sofia, a woman who playfully challenges his beliefs and tastes on almost every level, he struggles to reconcile this new relationship with the profound disdain he has always felt towards the romantic film genre.

Ironically, when he is commissioned to write a short screenplay in exchange for some easy cash, Victor bases his story on the seemingly formulaic trajectory of his relationship with Sofia, with hilarious results. Will Life imitate Art? You’ll have to watch to find out!

The Film Critic is marvelously meta, but engaging subplots that include Victor’s relationship with his snarky teenage niece (also an avid cinephile whose idea of a great film is Jerry Maguire); and his increasingly agitated interactions with a young filmmaker who takes Victor’s scathing criticism of his own film a bit too personally, keep the action lively. We loved this movie!

The Worley Gig Gives The Film Critic (El Critico) 5 out of 5 Stars. See it in Theaters and on VOD starting May 15th, 2015!