Film ReviewsFilm Reviews — By Buddy Sampson on May 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm
AFI Movie Report
By Deidra Burton
Known for his crime infested thrillers, James Gray takes a new approach in directing a modern Brooklyn-based romance drama, starring Joaquin Phoenix (villain of the film, Gladiator) as Leonard, who plays a bipolar loner who falls for his lovely-yet wishy-washy manipulating neighbor, Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow).
Gray narrates a New York tale of love, greed, and family loyalty as viewers watch love’s complications take their toll on a simple man faced with splitting decisions.
Audiences should find familiarity in the pragmatic illustration of characters. The plot develops a sorrowfulness for Leonard as he suffers through depression and suicidal modes on bipolar medications. A middle aged man who lives at home, once longing for his long lost runaway fiance, transitions into a passionate lover of two women.
His girlfriend is a longtime family friend named Sandra played by Vinessa Shaw (best known for her 2006 role in The Hills Have Eyes ), who is initially attracted to him. Simultaneously, Leonard wishes to become the successor of an unstable relationship Michelle has with her married boyfriend. While Leonard facades his half of the happy relationship with Sandra, the more level and less obtrusive of females in the love triangle, Leonard persists bending over backward for in response to Michelle’s every call for help. In fact, failing to recognize Michelle’s manipulation, Leonard is willing to postpone his evolving career in the family business, a beautiful girlfriend, and family for a lucky brush with a blond bombshell. All is close to lost on an uncertain discussion, sparked by careless spontaneity.
Phoenix, a Golden Globe Award winning actor and writer/ director, Gray, are no strangers to working with each other in film. Two Lovers is a third collaboration for the Jewish duo. It began in 2000 with The Yards, where Phoenix posed as best friend to an ex-con, played by Mark Wahlberg who rejoined forces with Phoenix and director, James Gray, for last year’s We Own the Night.
AFI is a national institute providing leadership in screen education and the recognition and celebration of excellence in the art of film, television and digital media. Celebrating its 22nd year as a program of the American Film Institute, kicking off the awards season each year, AFI FEST offers a crucial avenue of exposure to the entertainment community, while providing appreciative audiences with a festive atmosphere and the very best of world film, right in the center of the film capital of the world.
The Tale of Despereaux: No Ordinary Tail
By Deidra Burton
Does a long anticipated, articulate, trailblazing pioneer with sizable ears, destined for change sound familiar? Leave politics out of this, please! Universal’s new animated film in theaters, December 19th is no ordinary tale of a mouse named Despereaux (voiced by Matthew Broderick).
Refusing to cower, a mouse emerges from the pressures of a panic-stricken world at birth to see through the cloud of conformity with big brown eyes and hear the fretful noise of conditioning with furry oversized ears. Obstacles turn out to be Despereaux’s advantage over the other mice and rats, one whom he once befriended, named Roscuro, voiced by Dustin Hoffman. After an annual soup celebration gone wrong, a longing princess (Emma Watson of the Harry Potter sequels) is in need of a friend to be her lantern during a dark spell, the kingdom of Dor fell under since the tragedy of The Queen.
The original novel, “The Tales of Despereaux” was authored by Minneapolis writer, Kate DiCamillo. After publishing her third children’s book in 2003, she won the Newberry Medal in 2004 (the highest award in children’s literature). DiCamillo is noted for her debut children’s novel, “Because of Winn-Dixie” (2005).
A Cartoon Respectful to Kids?
Sigourney Weaver narrates the cold, hard truth about the many cautions of sustaining individuality. Weaver opened up to the press about concerns about her narrative tone of voice and alarming dialogue.”I will always be with them, take care of them, and get them back to the light,” said Weaver about the sometimes frightening themes of the film.
Cast and crew are confident that children will understand the symbols of integrity in the film. Every actor prepared for their animated character by taking their roles seriously and left behind all jovial spirits applicable to past animated projects. Many of the actors in the film had prior voiceover experience. Dustin Hoffman was heard in the animated film Kung Fu Panda and Sigourney Weaver in Wall-E. When questioned at a Los Angeles press conference about the dark tone of the film, 18 year old Emma Watson (Princess Pea) suggests that the many messages get through to kids “without insulting their intelligence.”
Previews and billboards, this month, have portrayed the film to be a family fun filled adventure in 3D. Before you cram the minivan, viewers, be sure to have filled up on enchanting fairy tale bliss. Then check your humor at the door. Sit back, relax, and get ready for a tall, glass of thick bureaucratic satire.
Moviegoers have said that it should be left to parents to teach kids about the fundamentals of society. Animated movies have always supplied at least an hour and a half of magical euphoria for kids to enjoy while mom or dad catches some shut eye.
“We were aiming for a classic”, said producer and screenplay, Gary Ross, whose 2003 movie, Seabiscuit, received seven Academy Award nominations. With chefs and rat oppression in common, will The Tale of Despereaux stand a chance for an award or will Ratatouille remain the top rodent pick of all time?
Last year Ratatoiulle won an Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe. What is predictable is if the little ones were blown away by the motion effects of Stuart Little, another lovable animated mouse, then the full blown visuals on every frame in T.O.D will wow them. Otherwise, help the kids out by avoiding another snooze.
Perhaps staying home with popcorn, viewing a home DVD of The Mouse Detective would be fun and safe from the horrific tales of discriminated mice.
Who would dare stop a beautiful actress with a keen business sense and smarts to boot? No one and nothing, yet, for Misha Harris. A canny USC graduate with Real Estate chops from Los Angeles, Misha caught the acting bug and has since been off and running. Harris plays the diva role in her latest theater production, The Old Settler. Harris shares her journey to the Hollywood scene and how she determines her own fate in the industry.
What led to your involvement in the theater productions at the Beverly Hills Playhouse?
Well I actually have been studying at The Beverly Hills playhouse since 1999, so I was aware that maybe someday I could be involved in the theater arm if I really honed in on my craft and if the opportunity presented itself. The Old Settler originally started to develop when a couple of actors and I began to take scenes from the play and perform them in class. We would get critiqued by our acting teacher, make changes and adjustments and one day decided it would be great if we could take this to Camelot Artists and put up the first Camelot play that would be fully cast and directed by African Americans.
When did you know you wanted to be an actress?
I had been involved in a successful commercial real estate career and got tired of the whole corporate scene. I wanted to do something more creative with my life. Before I started acting I attended Culinary School at UCLA because I love to cook but at that time I didn’t want to make a career out of it. One day I was chatting with a close friend of mine and former Beverly Hills Playhouse student that knew I harbored a creative side and encouraged me to pursue acting classes. Being raised in LA all my life, I was a bit reluctant to pursue the Hollywood scene…but he insisted and said to just try it out. So I enrolled in Beverly Hills Playhouse and I’ve never looked back. Everything started happening very quickly; I started doing background work, and since I had already professionally modeled in high school and college I was already familiar with “auditioning”, going on calls, and having an agent. I quickly joined SAG and AFTRA and not long after that I booked my first recurring role in “Fashion House” and soon after that another recurring in “Watch Over Me”
What was your previous occupation?
After graduating from USC in Social Science/Economics, I went into real estate. First I sold houses and then I started working as a receptionist for a Commercial Management Firm. I worked my way up being an Assistant Property Manager to Director of Operations at USA Networks.
You have come a long way in drama. Describe how you feel about the transition from business professional to actress?
Well now instead of real estate being my business, acting is my business. I think if you have a business mind to start off with, you can treat your acting as a business also. I feel I have gotten much further at a faster pace by being professional and treating my goals in acting the same way I treated my goals in commercial real estate. It ain’t called show business for nothing!
Do you enjoy playing the diva or are there opposite roles that you feel more comfortable with?
I love playing diva roles! I think they are so much fun! The important thing to remember about playing divas is that you have to show their vulnerability. Divas, like everyone else, have sides to them that they are ashamed of or not confident about, and the diva attitude is sometimes a cover for that which I find very interesting. I would love to play opposite of that also. I think I just love playing characters! It’s almost a lesson in psychology when you study a specific person and what has brought them to the place there are now in their lives. It’s also fun sometimes to not be Misha Harris and be someone totally different!
Do you know anyone like your character in The Old Settler, Lou Bessie?
I think everyone has a little Lou Bessie in them. Lou Bessie just isn’t a diva but is someone who had a difficult time in their life and is determined to overcome that and be successful; however success is defined for that person. I have a lot of Lou Bessie in me and I’m sure if some of your readers treat themselves and go see the play they can find a little Lou Bessie in them if they are completely honest with themselves.
Are there any future projects we can expect from you in the near future?
This Spring I will be hosting an episode of “Get out, Way Out” on HGTV, and continue to be involved in projects that are fun and help me grow as an individual, not just as an actress. I’m planning on being involved in more film and television roles and if a great play pops into my life…I’m in!!