Saturday movie review: Wild Canaries (update!)

Last fall I published a movie review on a screwball comedy called WILD CANARIES. I screened it as part of the 2015 Starz Denver Film Festival and at the time, there was no trailer for the film, no rating for the film, no release date for the film. Still, I was compelled to share with you then the wildly entertaining film.

Well, good things come to those who wait!

Wild Canaries film poster

I'm now compelled to tell you there is not only a...

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Saturday movie review: Wild Canaries

Unfortunately I cannot tell you when this movie will be released theatrically. I can tell you, though, that the minute you get the chance to see WILD CANARIES, you absolutely must. This funky, romantic, comedic, screwball murder mystery is in a class of its own and not to be missed.

WILD CANARIES directed by Lawrence Michael Levine stars Levine as Noah and his...

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Magical movies: Documentaries that make a difference

Movies are magic. A well-done feature film can change your attitude, your day, your outlook.

And a well-done documentary can change the world. Or, at the very least, an individual's world.

The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest

Case in point: As part of the Starz Denver Film Festival, I had the opportunity to screen THE LIFE AND MIND OF MARK DEFRIEST. The documentary directed...

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Saturday movie review: 'Wild'

Let me first say, I have not read Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, upon which the movie WILD is based. So you won't find here any comparisons of the book to the movie WILD

Wild movie poster

For those who, like me, somehow failed to read Strayed's best-selling book, WILD is the true story...

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'Gene Kelly: The Legacy' — Patricia Kelly on her late husband, plus exclusive Q&A

In one of the highlights of last month's Starz Denver Film Festival experience, Jim and I had the fabulous opportunity to attend Gene Kelly: The Legacy — An evening with Patricia Ward Kelly. As guests of Mrs. Kelly. What a fabulous treat it was.

Patricia Kelly on Gene Kelly

Patricia Kelly's two-hour, behind-the-scenes presentation highlighted her late husband's life and legacy in a sentimental, intimate manner no other biographer might be able to do. "Since I had the privilege of recording his words nearly every day for over ten years," Mrs. Kelly told me...

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Photo finish: People of the red carpet

The Starz Denver Film Festival wrapped up this past weekend, with the last red carpet event being the screening of AT MIDDLETON, directed by Adam Rodgers and starring Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga.

Here, my view of the people of the red carpet:

THE EVERYDAY PEOPLE

red carpet eventThe AT MIDDLETON red carpet experience with my favorite co-star, aka Jim.

THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

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Saturday movie review: 'The Truth About Emanuel'

THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL is a wholly original and unpredictable film on grief and the stories that keep us afloat. Emanuel's story is that she killed her mother. Or that's how Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) puts it in the voice-over in the movie's first scene.

As the dark film begins, it's days before Emanuel's eighteenth birthday. Emanuel detests birthday celebrations, though, because her mother died giving birth to her. Her combative attitude through much of the film makes it seem she detests far more than just her birthdays, including herself.

The Truth About Emanuel
(from left) Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel in THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL.

Emanuel lives with her father (Alfred Molina) and a stepmother she treats horribly. She seems fragile and ready to come undone any moment. The situation — and Emanuel's psychological state — take a complex turn for the worse when a young mother (played by Jessica Biel) moves in next door.

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'Labor Day' movie a tender ode to imperfect people... and pie

I tend to expect the worst yet hope for the best when it comes to movies based on novels I loved written by authors whom I've long adored. Such was the case with LABOR DAY, a film directed by Jason Reitman based on the novel of the same name by author Joyce Maynard.

Joyce Maynard on her grandmotherI read Joyce's novel not too long ago. I literally hugged the book to my chest after reading the final page, I loved it so. Because of my love for the book, when I had the opportunity to screen the film — which opened the Starz Denver Film Festival — I feared I'd be disappointed.

Thankfully my fear was unfounded.

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'Labor Day' highlights: My first red carpet experience

I've been a fan of Joyce Maynard's since first following her newspaper column back in the '80s. It was a column on all things domestic — a domesticity that I, a younger than average mother, was trying desperately to achieve. In many ways, Joyce Maynard helped me learn to be a mom.

Now Joyce Maynard has helped me learn the ropes of the red carpet.

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Saturday movie review: 'The Armstrong Lie'


Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

I don’t remember exactly where I was when I first heard that Lance Armstrong had finally admitted that the allegations about his doping activity were true, but I do remember exactly how I felt. I was saddened. Saddened far more by the truth than I expected I might be when the allegations first began swirling years before.

I’ve never really followed the sport of cycling, and Lance Armstrong was no hero of mine. But he was a hero to many, including many youngsters and many affected by cancer. Learning Armstrong was yet another to fall from the pedestal and into disgrace hurt my heart. His admission was, to me, final proof that heroes in American sports simply do not exist. Proof, too, considering how long he'd held out on revealing the truth, that Armstrong was a big fat liar.

There’s been so much in the news for years now — too much, really — that I fully understand those who have followed his story closely being fed up, filled up and done had enough of Armstrong, for better or for worse. As someone who quickly tires of the 24/7 rehashing of bad news, good news and all things celebrity, I purposely steered clear of much of the news and eventual over saturation on all things Armstrong, though. So I hadn’t heard the entire story and looked forward to seeing it through the lens of award-winning documentarian Alex Gibney in his film THE ARMSTRONG LIE.


Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

I had the opportunity to screen THE ARMSTRONG LIE this past week in advance of it being featured at the Starz Denver Film Festival. Bottom line: I found it a compelling tale of one man's blatant and boorish refusal to fess up to his wrongdoings despite irrefutable evidence against him. Ultimately, his fixation on power and winning no matter what, no matter who he destroyed, brought him down. I found myself shaking my head again and again throughout the viewing, wanting to just grab Armstrong by his famed yellow jersey and shake some sense and remorse into him.

What I liked most about THE ARMSTRONG LIE:
I appreciated the explanation of the film's title. Sure, we all know Armstrong lied, so it seemed an obvious choice of a title. But knowing that the title comes straight from front-page headlines of French newspapers — "le mensonge Armstrong" — emphasizes the world-wide disgust with Armstrong's defiant refusal to admit the truth. As mentioned in the film, doping was unfortunately commonplace in cycling, but it's Armstrong's adamant and repeated lying that was and is the story.

I also appreciated the filmmaker's honesty throughout the film. It's difficult to not get caught up in the hype and hope of Armstrong's attempt at a comeback. Gibney admits the challenge it was to not be lured in by the hope, the charm. Perhaps those moments of wanting to believe, to cheer Armstrong on are what made the betrayal all the more distressing to Gibney, who in turn expected and eventually received the on-camera apology.

Plus, I just really liked the filming of the races. During race scenes, I wondered again and again how the heck they filmed such footage. The music selections for the racing scenes (and others) were a perfect complement. The impressive filming and winning soundtrack made the incredible story far more enjoyable than one might expect such a frustrating, maddening tale to be

What bothered me most about THE ARMSTRONG LIE:
Nothing about the film itself, just the lies, really. And Armstrong's unbelievable inability to admit the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Worse yet? His lack of remorse.

A woman who viewed the film at the same time I did said to me afterward that she thinks Armstrong is truly a psychopath. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it sure seems to me that some sort of psychological issue led to Armstrong's downfall as a hero and champion. What's most disheartening about that, I told my fellow film goer, is that eventually Armstrong's children will learn the same ugly truth the rest of the world has and will no longer consider their dad a hero and champion either.

THE ARMSTRONG LIE, rated R for language, opens in NY, LA and Austin Nov. 8, 2013. Learn more from Sony Pictures Classics.

Disclosure: I screened this film as a member of the media covering the 36th Starz Denver Film Festival.