Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Thursday, April 17, 2014, 8:28 AM
From 'We Could Be King'

Philadelphia films, and filmmakers, are well represented in the lineup of features and documentaries screening at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival , which began Wednesday, April 16 and runs through April 27.

Already generating lots of buzz is Judd Ehrlich’s We Could Be King, about the 2013 closing of Germantown  High School and the struggles and changes faced by students in its football team as they try to assimilate with their arch-rivals at Martin Luther King High. Ehrlich’s film, which has its world premiere at Tribeca on April 23, was funded with support from the Dick’s Sporting Goods’ Foundation’s “Sports Matter” campaign, which supports youth sports in communities around the country. We Could Be King will screen on ESPN in May.

Tomorrow We Disappear, premiering Saturday, April 19, was shot in Delhi and tracks a group of slum-dwelling magicians, puppeteers and acrobats threatened with eviction by developers. The documentary comes from Philly natives and Penn alum  Jimmy Goldblum and Adam Weber.

POSTED: Thursday, April 10, 2014, 10:31 AM
Tye Sheridan sports the firearm, Nicolas Cage sports the look of woe, in "Joe."

In Joe, the hardscrabble tale of a whiskey-stoked, cigarette-smoked ex-con who runs a tree-poisoning business in backcountry Texas, Nicolas Cage gives the kind of performance we haven’t seen from the guy in years – it’s rooted in the real.  Directed by David Gordon Green, adapted from the 1991 Larry Brown novel, Joe opens Friday at the Ritz Bourse and the Bryn Mawr Film Institute – and serves to remind moviegoers that Cage is capable of more than cartoonish turns in comic book actioners, Hollywood horror and high-concept fare.

The actor turned 50 in January, and, according to IMDB, has 74 screen credits to his name. Here’s a quick look back at the best and the worst the Oscar-winning, Razzie-nominated star is capable of -- a Cage match of the stellar, and the cellar, roles.

The Best                                                                                             

POSTED: Wednesday, April 2, 2014, 5:51 PM
Scarlett Johansson goes hunting for man flesh in "Under the Skin."

Scarlett Johansson is back in her Black Widow gear, reteamed with Marvel’s red-white-and-blue supersoldier Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, opening everywhere April 4. Next week, the 29-year-old star shows up in something far stranger and more adventurous: she’s the mysterious femme fatale in Under the Skin, an eerie, experimental mood piece steeped in sex and death, about a nameless female who drives around Scotland, seducing men, and then luring them to their demise. The Jonathan Glazer indie is easily the least mainstream  title in Johansson’s filmography.

And the voice of Spike Jonze’s Her  has another mind-bender coming: Lucy, from prolific metteur en scene Luc Besson --shot in Taipei, and sparking controversy while it was in production (Besson bad-mouthing the local media). Johansson plays a drug runner who ingests what she’s smuggling, a blue liquid-y uber-pharmeceutical, and whoosh, suddenly she’s got almost superhuman mental and physical abilities. Kinda like the chemical that Bradley Cooper’s deadbeat scribe starts taking in the Philly-shot Limitless, no? ”All this knowledge,” says the awed neuroscientist Morgan Freeman. “You can unlock secrets that go beyond our universe. I’m not even sure that mankind is ready for you,”

Here’s a trailer from Lucy. It’s coming this summer, assuming mankind is ready.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 4:27 PM
"Trick Baby" screens at CFF April 24.

Cinedelphia 2014, a truly alternative film festival, officially begins Friday, April 4 – running through April 29th, but on Tuesday, April Fool’s Day, there’ll be a free multimedia preview event – with free pizza, too – to help befuddled filmgoers figure their way through the maze of live music, burlesque, video, film and whatever's in store. Here are just a few highlights:

Life of Pia (April 11), a comedic celebration of the ‘80s Golden Globe winner, Dubonnet spokesmodel and pop cult icon, Pia Zadora .

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (April 12), a free screening of the 1964 George Pal-directed  fantasy, with Tony Randall in a truly multi-faceted turn a a circus maestro, and as Merlin, Apolloniius, a giant serpent,  the Abominable Snowman, Pan and Medusa. With I Dream of Jeannie’s Barbara Eden along for the ride.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 5:48 PM
Detail from cover of Harlem Hellfighters.

From World War Z to World War I: Max Brooks’ new graphic novel, The Harlem Hellfighters, a fictionalized account of the African American 369th Regiment’s tour of the trenches of France, is on its way to the big screen – acquired by Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment, which has a development deal with Sony Pictures.

To be published by Broadway Books on April 1st, the Caanan White-illustrated trade paperback tracks the highly decorated unit from enlistment lines in Harlem to training camp in South Carolina to the bloody fields of France. Brooks, of course, is the author of the zombie bestseller World War Z, turned into a big Brad Pitt hit. No word on whether Smith plans to appear in The Harlem Hellfighters, which will deal with both the regiment’s European triumphs and  the discrimination and disdain the soldiers faced upon their return home. Smith has a lot on his plate: he stars in the heist pic Focus, coming next year; Hancock 2 and Bad Boys 3 are both on the drawing boards, and Brilliance, an adaptation of the Marcus Sakey Edgar Award-nominated thriller, about a Federal agent with  with some exceptional terrorist-tracking talents, is getting set to shoot with Smith in the lead.

POSTED: Friday, March 7, 2014, 1:29 PM
Bathtime chez Delts. David Warner gazes adoringly at Vanessa Redgrave, from "Morgan!"

“Nothing in this world seems to live up to my best fantasies, except you.”

A mid-‘60s swinging London comedy/love story/tale of madness, Morgan! A Suitable Case for Treatment gets a rare area screening on Tuesday, March 18, thanks to the folks at the Chestnut Hill Film Group. This forgotten gem, directed by Karel Reisz, has a bit of the British New Wave’s Billy Liar about it – a colorful, screw-loose protagonist lost in his own wild imaginings. In this case, that’s Morgan Delt (David Warner), a gangly, passionate, fisherman sweater-clad son of Marxists, whose obsessions with the simian life have gotten out of hand – he only feels himself when he’s inside a gorilla suit, scaling townhouse walls, riding a motor bike around town.

Vanessa Redgrave -- in her screen debut, and landing an Oscar nomination for her troubles -- plays Morgan’s artsy, well-to-do muse and missus, and she loves Morgan, too, but his grunting, sniffing, chest-beating antics have become too much to bear. She’s filed for divorce, and has suitors knocking. Funny, sweet, sad, smart, and shot by the great Larry Pizer, Morgan! represents ‘60s British cinema at its adventurous, freewheeling best.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 10:25 AM
Steve McQueen holds his Best Picture Oscar aloft. Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
The 86th Academy Awards made history Sunday night: Steve McQueen became the first black person to win the best picture prize, accepting the golden statuette as producer of the harrowing true-life story, 12 Years a Slave. McQueen lost the directing Oscar to Alfonso Cuaron, but the Gravity man’s win was historic, too: the Mexican-born Cuaron became the first Latino to win the Academy’s best director prize.

But will we remember any of that when people look back on the ceremonies celebrating 2013’s best? Or will they just talk about how host Ellen DeGeneres "broke” Twitter with her star-studded selfie – Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence,  Kevin Spacey, Lupita Nyong’o and her brother mugging with Degeneres as she wielded her Samsung down in the front rows, breaking the record for the most retweets (1.7 million)  in less than an hour? DeGeneres had trouble getting her lines out when she was up on the Dolby Theatre stage presiding over the evening’s long, lumbering show. But the comedian displayed way more skill – and enthusiasm – in her role as social media diva, beaming as she showed off her super-selfies and boasting to a worldwide TV audience that she had brought Twitter crashing down, all thanks to her stiff-arming, smart-phoning, hashtagging prowess.

Talk about swimming in the lake of me. DeGeneres celebrates her Twitter might, while McQueen breaks a Hollywood color barrier – with a film  that powerfully and provocatively explores America’s troubled past and the seeds of racism sown centuries ago. Retweet that, why dontcha?   

POSTED: Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 5:46 PM
Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake in "Inside Llewyn Davis."

If you can’t wait until Sunday night and all  the red carpet preening and posing, and those agonizing stretches of kudo-slinging and self-congratulation that take up at least half the Academy Awards ceremony’s running time, then tune in to the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards Saturday, March 1  (IFC, 10pm),  for a less-pretentious, more diverse celebration of the year in movies just-passed.

The Indie Spirit Awards limits eligibility to American films produced for less than $21 million, which is why you won’t see Gravity or The Wolf of Wall Street or Philomena jostling for recognition, and why Sarah Polley’s north-of-the-border documentary, Stories We Tell, is not among the contenders.But indie gems like Enough Said, and Short Term 12, and Fruitvale Station are, along with Oscar frontrunners 12 Years a Slave and acting candidates Cate Blanchett (for Blue Jasmine) and Matthew McConaughey (for Dallas Buyers Club). And maybe, finally, the Coen Brothers’ brilliant early-60s folk music odyssey, Inside Llewyn Davis, will get some due. The film is nominated for best picture and lead actor, for Oscar Isaac. If he wins, maybe he’ll change his name to Indie Spirit Isaac?

 Here’s the list of nominees in the top categories:

About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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