Film Review: “Jane Fonda in Five Acts”

 

 

JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS

Starring:  Jane Fonda, Robert Redford and DickCavet

Directed by:  Susan Lacy

Rated:  Not rated

Running time:  2 hrs 13 mins

HBO Films

 

Here is my Jane Fonda story.  In 2005, Ms. Fonda was in Kansas City to promote a book she had written.  I had been able to get my name on the press list in the off chance of getting a few minutes with the Oscar winning actress for a quick interview.  I can’t remember what, but something came up last minute and I was unable to attend.  Imagine my surprise the next morning when my phone began wringing.  It seems that while she was greeting people in line, a former Vietnam War veteran named MICHAEL SMITH spit tobacco juice on her.  Somehow, my name and contact info was discovered on the press list and people assumed it was me.  I received over 1,000 emails, some thanking “me” and others condemning “me.”  I even was invited to address an upcoming Marine Corps reunion in California.  After about two weeks the furor died down, but it was pretty exciting there for a while.

 

It was almost exactly 47 years ago (September 19, 1971) that President Richard Nixon, on one of his many tape recordings, asked an aide, “What in the world is wrong with Jane Fonda?”

The honest answer?  Not a damn thing!

 

“Jane Fonda in Five Acts” takes a look back at the actresses life and career, beginning when she was just known as Henry Fonda’s daughter.  Along with James Stewart, no other actor so embodied the image of the normal American male than Henry Fonda.  He was, according to his daughter, “a national monument.”  But behind that image was a man who could not express emotions unless he was in front of a camera.  Ms. Fonda is shown a photo of the family at a picnic, to which she explains that the image is staged.  The smiles forced and phony.  She can tell by the look in her mother’s face that she is not happy (Ms. Fonda’s mother dealt with many mental issues and would eventually kill herself.  She and her brother, Peter, were told she’d had a heart attack.  It wasn’t until years later, when Ms. Fonda read about it in a movie magazine, did she learn the truth).

 

As a young woman in her early 20s, she makes her way to the home of famed acting teacher Lee Strasberg.  He accepts her into his classes and, after a couple of months, puts her on the stage.  He recognizes her talents and encourages her to pursue them.  She begins to do small parts on television and in film while also modeling.  Tired of always doing the “cheerleader” roles, she heads to France, where she meets director Roger Vadim.  What follows is marriage, a child and a career changing role as the title character in “Barbarella.”

 

Back in America, she accepts a role in what she calls her first “real” movie, Sydney Pollack’s “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?<” earning her first of seven Academy Award nominations. (NOTE:  I didn’t see “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” until the mid 1980s at a tribute to Sydney Pollack.  If you haven’t seen it, I strongly suggest you do).  Just as she is being taken seriously as an actress she does two things:  cuts her hair and visits Vietnam.

Fonda, shown here with Roy Scheider, won her first Academy Award for her role in the film “Klute.”

Depending on the age of the people you speak with, Fonda is either “a great actress” or “Hanoi Jane.”  There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.  She was one of the first major celebrities to speak out against the United States’ involvement in Vietnam.  If there is any criticism now it is some of the ways she spoke out.   In the late 1980’s she apologized to the veterans and their families if her actions make things tougher for them.  A chance meeting with former vet and anti-Vietnam activist Ron Kovic gives her the idea for the film “Coming Home,” which would win her her second Oscar.

 

Now married to activist Tom Hayden, she puts together films that speak to her beliefs.  Many people scoffed at “The China Syndrome,” a film that dealt with a fictional melt-down at a nuclear power plant.  However, two weeks after the film opened there was a real incident at Three Mile Island.  Nobody was scoffing then.  In one of the most emotional moments of the documentary, Ms. Fonda talks about the only film she did with her father, “On Golden Pond.”  She recalls how, during a scene in the film, she surprised her father with a slight touch of his arm, causing the actor to cover his eyes to hide the tears welling up in them.  This would be Henry Fonda’s last film and it earned him his first Academy Award.

 

As the years progress we learn more about the actress and her life.  Needing to raise money for an organization she and her husband had founded, she produced her own workout video, which today remains the most popular home video ever made.  We follow her through her divorce from Hayden and her marriage to media mogul Ted Turner.  She speaks highly of all three of her ex-husbands.  We also meet some of her children, who explain that growing up was not all limos and mansions.  However, in the end, you end up with an amazing story of an amazing person.  At age 80, Jane Fonda is still going strong.  Here’s to act number six!
 

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Concert Review: Laura Jane Grace and The Devouring Mothers

Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers, David Dondero

Date: Saturday, February 20th 2016

Venue: The Waiting Room, Buffalo, NY

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Against Me! Front woman Laura Jane Grace made a stop at the intimate Waiting Room in Buffalo, NY on Feb 20th as part of a brief 8 show acoustic tour with her group the Devouring Mothers. Also on the bill for these handful of shows was veteran singer song writer Dave Dondero. The night was part storytelling and part music as both set of performers aimed to provide the audience with a nights worth of entertainment.

As fans were still making their way up the twisted steps of the dual stage venue opening act Dave Dondero took the stage for a less than energetic set. At several points through the 30/40 minute set Dondero asked the crowd if they were actually interested in hearing him play and if not he was ok with leaving. At first what seemed like a joke carried on throughout the remainder of Dondero’s unprofessional and lack luster set.

As the room began steadily filling in Laura Jane and the Devouring Mothers (a group made up of Against Me! drummer Atom Willard and producer/ bassist Marc Hudson) would take the stage and blast through over 20 acoustic renditions of some of Against Me’s material both new and old. In between such songs as “Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%” and “Androgynous” Grace read entries from her upcoming book which will be made of countless journal entries and experiences. The set by Laura Jane and company was like a cooler version of “VH1’s Storytellers”. The set was a nice mixture of both new and old tracks which provided something for the various levels of fans the packed the intimate club setting. Missing from the set however was the song “500 Years” which was released in 2014 as a Record Store Day limited edition 7”. Despite this being the perfect setting for the somber number other tracks like “Because of the Shame” and “Two Coffins” filled the void nicely and, despite the of the night being a bit rocky Laura Jane, Atom and Marc did a great job as they more than made it up to the Buffalo fans.

Set List:
1.) Ache With Me
2.) Pints of Guinness Make You Strong
3.) Tonight We’re Gonna Give It 35%
4.) You Look Like You Need a Drink
5.) Sink, Florida, Sink
6.) I Keep Forgettin’
7.) Pretty Girls (The Mover)
8.) How Low
9.) Searching for a Former Clarity
10.) Joy
11.) Androgynous (Replacements Cover)
12.) The Ocean
13.) Harsh Realms
14.) Conceptual Paths
15.) Because of the Shame
16.) Two
17.) True Trans Soul Rebel
18.) Bamboo Bones
19.) Transgender Dysphoria Blues
20.) Black Me Out
(Plus 2 song Encore)


The Soska Sisters talk about their films “See No Evil 2” & “ABCs of Death 2”

The Soska Sisters cconsisting of Jen & Sylvia Soska are film directors are literally taking over the horror genre. After their short film “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”, they made the fantastic and original horror film called “American Mary” then quickly following that they were brought us to work with WWE on the horror sequel “See No Evil 2”. They also have a segment in the upcoming “ABCs of Death 2”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the “Twisted Twins” to chat about “See No Evil 2” and their upcoming projects.

Mike Gencarelli: I just want to start that I loved “American Mary”; it was original, very smart, ballsy and really fucking gory. I honestly reminded me why I love horror movies. Going from that film to “See No Evil 2” with WWE’s Kane; what was that like?
Sylvia Soska: That is a hell of a compliment. Thank you for saying that. That project is very much a part of who Jen and I are. After that film, we took many studio meetings to get the next film made, but all anyone wanted to see was Katharine Isabelle with us as a sexy doctor or surgeon or torturer and it was really depressing. When WWE and Lionsgate approached us to make the film, we read the script and got super excited, but didn’t think there was a chance in hell that we would get hired. It was so much of a dream project, but it happened. Then we started to collaborate on the story, hire the cast, and it just kept getting better. We only make films that we, as fans, would want to see; See No Evil 2 is that kind of film.
Jen Soska: We are the fan directors. We love horror movies so much and I do hope you can tell on every frame of our movies. We want to make a horror film in each sub genre of horror. To have the opportunity to create our own masked man horror icon was incredible. I feel the first film was more of a prequel and this is Jacob’s true first film. The first film had Jacob under the command of his fanatic religious mother. In this film we recreate Jacob’s look, theme music, and array of weapons. It’s a tremendous honor and I still can’t believe we got such an incredible opportunity that so few directors ever have.

MG: What was your biggest challenging tackling that film?
SS: It should have been much more difficult but we were spoiled by our cast and crew. Let me tell you a little thing about the crew you can get in Vancouver – seasoned professionals that work year around on everything from major blockbuster productions, to some of the best genre televisions series we have ever seen, and the darling independent gems. You get this crew and you get peace of mind because they are so good. Almost the entire cast were child actors, so not only was the level of talent very high in our performers, but we had a team that could pull off this very ambitious film very masterfully.
JS: For me, the biggest challenge was making something that was true to the original and respected the fans who loved that film while building on that film’s missed opportunities. It’s hard to come
into an existing franchise and make changes. Every franchise has key parts to it. You don’t want to come into something like, Hellraiser, and take out the lament configuration. Just like with Jacob.
There were untouchable elements, but we had a lot of room to play around with the character and story and kills and almost everything.

MG: Tell us about what it was like working on “ABCs of Death 2” and your segment “T is for Torture Porn”?
SS: It was something we’ve been wanting to make since the open entry contest on the first one. I watch a lot of porn, I love it. I think in horror there are interesting issues you can tackle because it’s not like you’re just preaching at people – you have one foot in reality and one in the fantastical. T is for Torture Porn is a commentary on unwanted sexual violence and degradation with a very angry reaction to that with how the short ends. But there’s still a laugh to it all, wait til the after credits scene – it’s the end of our segment.
JS: A tremendous honor! I loved the first ABCs of Death. I really wanted to be in it, but we saw T is for Toilet (the entry for the 26th slot open to all directors) and it was perfection. We wanted to make Torture Porn all the way back then but we put it on the back burner. We didn’t even expect them to do a sequel. I’m so happy they did and absolutely honored that Ant invited us on.

MG: Are you ever afraid of taking it too far or offending the audience?
SS: Ha ha, from some of the not happy with it reviews, maybe I should have? Naw, art is to make people feel things. It’s to spurn a reaction. Anything that one person loves, another person will hate it.
JS: In the immortal words of one of my favorite comedians ever, John Cleese, “some people deserve to be offended.” It’s just art and art should make you question things and leave an impression on you. It should get you thinking. I’m not a fan of senseless violence or cruelty to animals, but I think that violence and the obscene have a place in art for sure. Though somewhat controversial, MARTYRS and A SERBIAN FILM are superb films. They use their violence, gore, and more upsetting parts as a commentary.

MG: What do you love most about the horror genre?
SS: Everything. Being scared gets me excited, it makes me feel alive. It’s a thrill.
JS: What’s not to love? I feel horror chose us from a very young age. I can’t remember a time I didn’t love it. It’s exciting and fun. You ever go to a Horror Convention? If you haven’t, treat yourself. They are the happiest places on Earth filled with the sweetest people. Horror brings out the best in people.

MG: We ever going to see you both directing a romantic comedy?
SS: I thought American Mary was a romantic comedy. Jen and I are in love with this script written by Josh Murray, this extremely crass female-centric Christmas comedy. I bet you didn’t see that coming, eh? But that’s how we pick our projects – if we would want to see this movie, we would make that movie.
JS: Dammit, I thought SEE NO EVIL 2 was a romance movie! Well, to me, it totally is. I’d love to tackle any genre. I’m not into labels. Some people seem happy to categorize us as “female twin horror directors”, but I just see us as directors. I love film. I love all genres of film. There is no genre we wouldn’t tackle and put a Soska spin on.

MG: You also worked with WWE Studios for “Vendetta”, which is an action films; what can you tell us about that experience?
SS: Vendetta stars Dean Cain, Paul ‘Big Show’ White, and Michael Eklund and it is the most badass film we have ever made. The pure physicality to it, the amazing stunt fights from our Stunt Coordinator, Kimani Smith, and Fight Coordinator, Dan Rizzuto, pushed everything and everyone to the max. You have never seen the cast like this before. It is such a fuck yeah movie. We got our See No Evil 2 team back to pull it off and we really kicked the shit out of ourselves making this gritty crime revenge flick.
JS: It was incredible! It was so nice to have Michael Luisi of WWE Studios be the first to give us an opportunity to do a genre that wasn’t strictly horror. We have stunts and action in all of our films. It was really fun to have so much more of it. Dean Cain is outstanding, a true Hollywood icon. You’ve never seen him like this before, either. I love Dean good, but he’s SO much better bad. And he’s a total badass in Vendetta. Paul “Big Show” Wight is so evil. He plays a lot of comedic roles and the humor here comes from just how bad he is. And he loves it. Eklund is the Canadian Daniel Day Lewis. I just love him. There isn’t anything he can’t do. You hand me a script and I look for the top three roles I can see him in. He’s so capable and versatile. The film is so sexy, and dark. It’s almost a boy version of American Mary.

MG: How is your adaption of “Painkiller Jane” coming along? Is this your next project?
SS: Painkiller Jane is coming along very well. We are on the epic task of finding Jane. She needs to be tough as nails, completely shredded, with a great emotional capacity, and pitch perfect comedic ability. Easy, right? There are a few projects we have in development that are racing to the finish line right now, so I can say 100% sure on anything, but we have a huge focus on making Bob, our monster movie right now. It’s time, we haven’t stop work on it in all this time.
JS: We are filmmaking sharks. If we stop making films, we die. We have several original scripts that we’re pushing forward and have several more films in all stages of development. We’re planning some TV work along with a couple graphic novels, as well, so we honestly never stop. We’re so creative. I love story telling. I’m so blessed to be able to do what we do. With any luck, BOB will be our next one. It’s so very special to us.

MG: Lastly, I just have to ask how does it feel to literally be taking over the horror genre? Very soon, you will be so big that I won’t be able to speak with you again!
SS: Nothing feels like real life to me right now. I am getting to make films I love with my best friend and it’s been years of struggling to get to a point where we feel secure in getting to keep doing this! Thank you for supporting us – otherwise we would be waiting tables still.
JS: Ha ha, OMG, you will ALWAYS be able to talk to us! We still can’t believe people like our stuff. It’s like some sort of weird karma from being so damn unpopular growing up. It’s a profound honor to have people respond to us and our work the way they have. I grew up dressing like movie characters I love. Seeing people cosplay ours or get them tattooed on them is so unreal. Like a dream come true. And all the letters we get mean the world to us. We try to be the role models we would have liked growing up. We’ll always stay the same. Grounded and uber grateful for the influence we have. And we’re only just getting started.

 

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Book Review “Jane Ray’s Cinderella”

Author: Jane Ray
Reading level: Ages 5 and up
Hardcover: 12 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: September 25, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect with a pop-up adaption of Cinderella – that wasn’t from Disney. But I was really pleasantly surprised. This pop-up book transform the story of Cinderella into the three-dimensional and really tells gives this fairy-tale a very elegant portrayal. The illustration of Cinderella and her royal night are very impressive, yet simple.  I highly recommend this to all fans of this timeless story.

Author Jane Ray delivers this wonderful book within its layered cut-paper artwork. There are six very detailed pages ranging from the kitchen landscape, the magical garden, the ballroom and of course the pumpkin coach. There are also fantastic side panels that provide text to tell the story.  So this can be used as a straight up picture book or also a read-along storybook.  Having a little girl myself, I can see her revisiting this book very often and sending her off to sleep each nice with dreams of being a princess.  Good job Candlewick!

Blu-ray Review “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?: 50th Anniversary Edition”

Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Anna Lee, Maidie Norman, Marjorie Bennett
Director: Robert Aldrich
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: October 9, 2012
Run Time: 134 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were known for there feuding both on and off the screen during making “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”. After 50th years, they still deliver some great performances in this film. Warner’s is releasing this film in their trademark Digibook release and it is definitely worth the upgrade for fans of this classic film. Warner Brothers delivers a real nice 1080p video, within its new digital transfer taken from the original camera negative and restored audio elements. This really makes the picture pop off the screen and looks amazing in black and white still after all these years. The original DTS-HD Master Audio Mono also works well with the 50 year old film.

The special features are great but nothing new for this 50th anniversary release. There is a commentary track from Charles Busch and John Epperson Epperson, which is relatively funny. “Bette and Joan: Blind Ambition” looks back on the legendary careers of both iconic actresses. “Behind the Scenes with Baby Jane” is short but neat vintage featurette on the production. The is an excerpt from “The Andy Williams Show” on 12/12/1962, when Bette was a guest on the show. “All About Bette” is a TCM special focusing on Davis and hosted and narrated by Jodie Foster. There is a “Film Profile” on Joan Crawford, which runs just under 30 minutes. Lastly there is a theatrical trailer.

Synopsis: Two icons from the golden age of Hollywood, Oscar® winners* Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, take their famous feud onscreen in Robert Aldrich’s newly restored thriller. In fierce, no-holds-barred performances, Bette Davis portrays aging ex-child star Baby Jane Hudson while Joan Crawford plays Blanche, the crippled sister Jane torments psychologically. As the sisters descend into madness, the tension builds to a shocking ending in this unforgettable Academy Award®-winning classic.

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Interview with Jane Antonia Cornish

Jane Antonia Cornish is a composer who recently re-scored the upcoming film “Fireflies in the Garden”. The score was originally done by the Oscar nominated Javier Navarrete (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jane about re-scoring the film and what we can expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: What was you approach to re-scoring “Fireflies in the Garden”?
Jane Antonia Cornish: I was just contacted this summer. It has been a good four years since the film came out at the Berlin Film Festival. Since that time the film was re-edited and essentially became a brand new film. It’s very different which is why I was asked to score it. I came on to give it a new sound.

MG: What was your inspiration for re-scoring the sound?
JAC: After seeing the new cut I sat down with the film’s director Dennis Lee. He went through and told me where he wanted the music to come in and go out. He was great because he gave me free reign to write in my style. I was very inspired by what I saw. The film is beautiful and the cast is great. The musical ideas really flowed.

MG: What was your biggest challenge working on the film?
JAC: Everything went really smoothly. I got the film in July and delivered it in August. Working with Dennis was fantastic. We were on the same page from the start. It was a really great project.

MG: Was there a specific style of music that you tried to use in the film?
JAC: Yes. I would say it’s a classical score. I wrote it for piano trio, solo obo and chamber orchestra. It has some minimalist elements. It very much in the style I write in when I create orchestra music.

MG: Do you enjoy having freedom when you are scoring or do you prefer direction?
JAC: I do like to get direction from the director as it is their film. I like to make sure what I compose is in the directors vision. I do however like freedom. I enjoy being able to write in my style. On this latest film I didn’t even hear the previous score. I was presented with an entirely different cut all together.

MG: Can you give us some background on your upcoming film “Highland Park”?
JAC: The film stars Parker Posey and Danny Glover. It’s set in Detroit and centers around a group of people hit hard by the economy. The group bands together and starts buying lottery tickets and you can imagine what happens next. The film has a lot of heart.  I really enjoyed working on the score.