A THREAD OF DECEIT: The Hart Family Tragedy
From producers Chris Kobin, Rachel Morgan and 1091 Media comes the story of secrets, deceptions and horror with A THREAD OF DECEIT: The Hart Family Tragedy.
In March of 2018, a story broke about an accident that claimed the lives of an entire family. Jen and Sarah Hart were an educated married couple both majoring in special education. In their years together, they adopted six children. Abigail, Hannah Jean and Markis were adopted in 2006 from Texas and in 2008 the Hart’s adopted Devonte, Ciera, Jeremiah after their biological mother couldn’t take care of the children.
It would be Devonte Hart, at the age of 12, who would capture national attention with the infamous photograph of the young boy giving a policeman ‘the hug felt around the world’ during a Ferguson protest. The family photographs taken by Jen and put on social media gave the idea that this was a loving family who did everything together in the name of family.
Friends came to know the Hart family and saw them also as a fun family but was that the truth? Photos show everyone what could be not necessarily what is. It is only through following Jen and Sarah’s life was it found that there were allegations of child abuse beginning in Minnesota in 2008 and again in 2010. When a pattern emerged, Jen took it upon herself to homeschool the children.
Moving to Oregon in 2013, another investigation was taking place. Jen tries to convince the authorities that the allegations were put against them by people who didn’t believe a lesbian couple should raise African-American children. Moving again to Washington in 2017, neighbors of the couple were surprised one night when Hannah ran to their door out of fear and again when Devonte asked them for food.
The neighbors contacted Children Protective Services and what happened next would be the most shocking ending to an already shocking story.
A THREAD OF DECEIT: The Hart Family Tragedy is an all too familiar story of what goes on behind closed doors. Although Jen and Sarah put on an outward façade of their life with six children, that almost perfect façade prevented the truth from being seen.
As a mother and grandmother, it is heartbreaking to hear this story. No one wants to ever believe that it is possible even though we all know, deep down, that it is absolutely possible. All one has to do is turn on the evening news and there is a story of children being exploited by those are purported to love them.
In Devonte’s case it is even more of a heart pain knowing that he was such a loving young man. While this documentary is going through its paces, I recognized the photograph they were speaking about and was once again jaw dropped to know it was Devonte Hart. To also know that this young man did what he could to protect his siblings (adopted or biological) is a testament to what could have been for him.
My only big question mark that still lingers over my head is that it seems that everything was being pointed straight as Jen. Where was Sarah in all of this? Grandma taught me that it takes two to tango, yet she seems to have gotten away scott-free from this documentary. Just something I noticed.
Other interviews include Sharyn Babbitt, Scott Barber, Nusheen Bakhtiar, Octavio Choi, Don Corey, Adolfo Cuellar, Dontay Davis, Nathaniel Davis, Dana Dekalb, Krista Herring, Shonda Jones, Zipporah Lomax, Brittini New, Amanda Price, Jennifer Price, Tammy Scheurich, Riannah Weaver and Christopher Worth.
A THREAD OF DECEIT: The Hart Family Tragedy is so difficult to watch at times. It is a deep sadness that runs through ever frame of the film because all of it was something that could have been prevented. Of course, fingers can be pointed all over the place (and they are and should be), but what eventually happened falls straight into the laps of Jen and Sarah Hart.
One very important lesson this documentary teaches us is that we are all responsible for one another. If we shout the alarm and nothing is done, we shout louder and if that doesn’t work – social media always seems to do the trick. Not the social media of what we want the world to look like, but the social media that calls to arms everyone who believes in saving those who cannot save themselves.
If we are truly all in this together, then something like this should never, ever happen again. We have no excuses.
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
Coming to Amazon Prime from writer/directors Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy and Amazon Studios comes a story of twists and a town singing BLOW THE MAN DOWN.
Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth Connolly (Morgan Saylor) are mourning the death of their mother, Mary Margaret. Living in a small fishing village, everyone comes to try and support the girls including their mother’s friends Gail (Annette O’Toole), Doreen (Marceline Hugot) and Susie (June Squibb).
Hearing people talk, Mary Beth finds out that they might lose the house and gets upset with Priscilla. To get away she heads to the local bar and meets Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). Going back to his place, things don’t go very well, and chaos breaks out. Going home to get help from Priscilla, they try to cover up the mess.
The next morning at the store owned by their mother, Priscilla discovers she is missing something that could get themselves in trouble. Opening their front door, she sees Enid (Margo Martindale), also a friend of their mother’s but not welcomed by the other three in the group.
Officer Coletti (Skipp Sudduth) also knocks wanting to borrow their boat since they’ve found a body. Pricilla goes along but doesn’t recognize who the girl is but Alexis (Gayle Rankin) knows exactly who the victim is. Now, there are more secrets than that of Pricilla and Mary Beth, secrets that go further than they could ever have imagined.
The shock has ripples that show no mercy.
Lowe as Priscilla is the calm and collected sister who thinks things through and realizes that their mother’s death brings a new set of realities. As mad as she gets at Mary Beth, there isn’t anything she wouldn’t do for her – anything. Lowe is such a presence in the film and I just couldn’t take my eyes off her.
Saylor as Mary Beth is outrageous and has anger towards what she feels is a year of her life wasted. Making a crazy decision is what gets the sisters into a mess that doesn’t seem to have a way out – even if she thinks she’s found a way out. Saylor goes with the flow of craziness in a way I never could.
Moss-Bachrach as Gorski isn’t happy with the life in this small town and how he makes his living. There is a streak about him that is disconcerting and he’s so good at it. Sudduth as Coletti is an officer who is trying to discover who murdered the girl, but he isn’t getting help from anybody in town. They have their secrets and aren’t about to share them with the law.
O’Toole as Gail, Hugot as Doreen and Squibb as Susie are the three ladies I’d love to hang out with. They keep their eye on everything that happens in their little town and don’t take any nonsense. That seems to be the difference between them and Martindale as Enid. Enid is trouble waiting to explode and the three ladies aren’t happy with the nonsense she is causing in their town. When they see Alexis played by Rankin, it is time to put their foot down, but Enid isn’t the type to take anything from anyone – even her ‘so-called’ friends. Martindale has the unique ability to play the most amazing characters, from a loving character to a down right bitch, she excels and in this film she doesn’t disappoint.
Shout out to the Singing Fisherman, I absolutely loved their singing and thought where they were placed in the film was absolutely stellar.
Other cast include Will Brittain as Officer Justin Brennan, Owen Burke as Paulie, Thomas Kee as Declan Crawley, David Coffin, David Pridemore, Adam Mayerson and Mark S. Cartier as the Singing Fisherman.
BLOW THE MAN DOWN is a story of sisters, friendships and the secrets a little town can have that are almost impossible to penetrate. The characters are completely memorable, and I don’t think I will forget any of them for a very long time.
I absolutely love the originality of the film and the way writers/directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy left my jaw dropping constantly. This isn’t just one storyline – it is several and they all mesh in an amazing way and wrap up beautifully.
If you are looking for something twisted, unusual and stunning to watch then you need to see BLOW THE MAN DOWN because discussions will be had after.
In the end – it is a small town with big secrets!
THE TWO POPES is a Hit for Netflix
Coming to Netflix from director Fernando Meirelles and writer Anthony McCarten comes the story needing to be told by these two actors about THE TWO POPES.
The story set in 2012 should be easy to tell but this one isn't. Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) is an interesting man to say the very least but he is more interested in Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce). On a visit to Pope Benedict's summer house, Bergoglio wants to present the Pope with his resignation.
With paper in hand and explaining himself, Pope Benedict doesn't seem to be the slightest bit interested. In fact, he begins conversing with Bergoglio about everything but the papers in his hand, including their differing views on the church.
Their conversations tell the story of these two men and the lives they have led and in that lies so much greatness. Juan Minujin portrays the Bergoglio as a young man telling the story of a time when decisions cost everyone everything. As Pryce tells his story, it is so heavy a tale he is telling remembering where he has come and what he feels he must do by resigning. He certainly doesn't shy away from telling his Holiness what he really thinks which had my jaw dropping.
Hopkins Pope Benedict listens intently but tends to coat the conversation with brevity every chance he gets. Here is a man who has his own past to deal with and lets Bergoglio know that in that fashion that they are only human no matter what clothes they are wearing. He is also confronted with the scandals that have been a part of the Church and Bergoglio wants to understand.
Throughout the film, it is Hopkins and Pryce that are stellar and with every conversation there are revelations about the two men who would become Popes. This film could easily have become a dry story with a peak behind Vatican curtain but instead it is a film that you can't take your eyes off of from first moment to last.
One might not expect humor from THE TWO POPES but between jokes, a little piano time, orange soda and pizza you'd be wrong. That is what Hopkins and Pryce bring to the film - an unpredictability that is informative, endearing, charming and worth every minute. The story being told is one of two men holding the highest religious place in the Catholic Church.
The cinematography is absolutely stunning and the costuming is equally beautiful. Those are important in this piece because this is no ordinary story about the church being told, it is also a look inside the walls of where both these men live in a way most of us cannot fathom.
Netflix has certainly found a winning streak this year with some of the most fantastic stories for viewers. THE TWO POPES ends their year on an even higher note as streaming channels truly cater to originality in their programming. Netflix's release of THE IRISHMAN in November is another example of showing viewers something new, interesting and thought provoking.
THE POPE is a film I want to see again because the performances by these two actors is so brilliant and stunning it has to be seen again. Hopkins and Pryce carry the film together with equal greatness of the Popes in both humor, strong character and acceptance of their pasts. We should all see those characteristics in ourselves.
In the end - two men with one goal!
Netflix Releases THE IRISHMAN
Currently on Netflix from director Martin Scorsese is the highly anticipated film streaming with THE IRISHMAN.
Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) served in World War II and is now a truck driver trying to take care of his family in 1950's Philadelphia. When is truck breaks down, he meets Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) who seems to know how to fix it. Wanting to show his appreciation, Frank offers but Russell turns him down and both go on their way.
Selling a few things to a local crime family, he is accused of theft and lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano) convinces a judge that he is innocent. Bufalino introduces Frank to his cousin - Russel Bufalino and immediately he begins to work for Russell. As the head of the Scranton crime family, Russell is privvy to almost everything going on and becomes close friends with Frank. Their friendship starts real money coming to Frank and his family.
Jimmy Hoffa is the president of the Teamsters and an acquaintance of Russells'. Sending Frank over to help Hoffa means dealing with Anthony "Pro" Provenzano (Stephen Graham) who is causing trouble. If that isn't hard enough, Hoffa is having problems with the government and blames the Kennedys for all his difficulties. Bringing Frank aboard, Hoffa starts to feel as if there is at least one person he can trust.
When Robert Kennedy is named Attorney General, Hoffa can't control his anger knowing that the President's brother is going to do anything possible to bring him down. Eventually that is exactly what happens and while in prison, Frank goes back to work for Russell and the Teamsters is being run by Frank Fitzsimmons.
While in prison, Hoffa gets into a scuffle with Provenzano when insults are exchanged. Not realizing that this is a bad idea, Frank consistently tries to smooth their beef over with no luck. In 1971, President Nixon pardon's Jimmy Hoffa but he can't get back in with the Teamsters for a while.
He may not be able to jump back in the ring but certainly make plans to do it and that's exactly what Hoffa does. Being as loud as everyone remembers him to be, Russell starts getting heat from the others that Hoffa is becoming a problem. Turning to Frank's friendship with Hoffa, they ask him to convey that Hoffa needs to curtail the rhetoric. Well that couldn't have had the worse effect on the former leader of the Teamsters.
Instead of cutting back a bit, he informs Frank loudly that he knows things about the dons that make him untouchable and all but dares them to try anything. When Bufalino's daughter is to be married, Russell, Frank and their wives make a road trip to attend. Everything is fine until Russell tells Frank that he is going to make a side trip to meet Hoffa and bring Provenzano so they can finally put things to rest.
Putting things to rest is what Frank does best.
De Niro as Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran is fantastic but then again I would expect nothing less. Scorsese knows that if he is going to do a Mafia film he can't exactly do it without De Niro. Having him start off as a younger man is a little unnerving and it is easy to spot the changes, but as the film goes along he just morphs into character and ages right along with him. What De Niro has the stunning ability to do is make you feel for a character that isn't exactly an saint. The effects of this are lost on Frank but not on the family as his daughters struggle with the knowledge of who their father is.
Pacino as Hoffa is portrayed as an incredible character in that he has a mouth that I'm not sure how he got away with for so long. Well, absolute power does corrupt absolutely and Hoffa was definetly on the right side of that saying. He ran the Teamsters the way HE wanted to run it and whoa-be anybody that got in his way. Even prison didn't stop him - much. Pacino adds a dynamic that is such a struggle for Frank and Russell, they want to understand, they try to understand but the noose starts to get tight around their necks. Pacino is everything marvelous and then some.
Pesci as Russell is such a treasure and what is interesting about this character is the eerie calmness. I'm used to seeing Pesci get loud, get crazy and make no excuses for any of it. In the role of Russell he gives a collected demeanor that never gets out of hand and plays everything close to the chest. There is nothing about the way that he behaves that gives anything away, no plans, no ideas…nothing. Instead, behind those eyes are plans upon plans and he makes no apologies for caring for those he loves first and foremost.
Graham as Provenzano is the thorn in Hoffa's side, the thing that rubs him the wrong way and the very thing that sets his teeth to grinding. Feeling he owes Hoffa nothing, Provenzano has no problem hitting below the belt or in the eye - which ever. Graham gives his character a Superman complex of huge proportion and puffs his chest whenever his enemy is near.
Other cast include Bobby Cannavale as Felix DiTullio, Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran, Stephanie Kurtzuba as Irene Sheeran, Kathrine Narducci as Carrie Bufalino, Welder White as Jo Hoffa, Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O'Brien, Jack Huston as Robert Kennedy, Domenick Lombardozzi as Anthony Salerno, Paul Herman as Whispers DiTullio, Louis Cancelmi as Salvatore Briguglio, Marin Ireland as Dolores Sheeran, Sebastian Maniscalco as Joseph Gallo, Jim Norton as Don Rickles, Al Linea as Sam Giancana, Joseph Riccobene as Jimmy Fratianno and Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno.
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The project came from De Niro after he read the 2004 book by Charles Brandt I Heard You Paint Houses. Bringing it to the attention of Martin Scorsese meant that it couldn't have been placed in better hands. Industrial Light & Magic (emphasis on 'magic') did the de-aging for the film.
Scorsese said on The A24 Podcast that "there is a great deal of CGI because we're doing this youthification of De Niro, Pesci and Al Pacino. We're all concerned that we're so used to watching them as the older faces." I don't think he has anything to worry about as the storyline takes over any thoughts about the youthification.
THE IRISHMAN is everything I want in a film like this and more. In fact the running time of 209 minutes means that every part of the story is explored. From Franks marriages to the relationships with his daughter, especially the strain with daughter Peggy and how people perceived Frank. The story of Russell is shrouded in a bit of mystery except for what Frank knows and shares with us in his narrations and I don't mind that. The story of Hoffa and what got him in trouble with everyone is intense and constantly in flux.
The film is breath taking in scope and not a moment of time is wasted. Every minute is important and that's something views are agreeing on. The last half hour as we are part of Frank's mob-afterlife, I am even more giddy with De Niro, Pacino and Pesci's performances. THE IRISHMAN is a film that reminds us of what an amazing world cinema creates for us all.
In the end - his story changed history!
MARRIAGE STORY Hits Viewers Hard with Life, Love and Relationships
Currently on Netflix from writer/director Noah Baumback is the story of a marriage that becomes a bit of a battle with MARRIAGE STORY.
Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) and wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) are a young married couple living in New York City and both are in the ‘business’. Charlie is a theater director and Nicole has been in film and on stage.
Things have been difficult for them both when Nicole is offered a television pilot in Los Angeles. Charlie watches her go to L.A. living with her mother Sandra (Julie Hagerty) and taking their son Henry (Azhy Robertson) with her. Its difficult to get away for Charlie with a play coming to Broadway as it takes up much more of his time than ever.
The more time the couple spends away from each other, issue begin to arise as Nicole feels neglected by Charlie. To his surprise Nicole is talking to attorney Nora Fanshaw (Laura Dern) who tells Charlie to get a lawyer of his own for the separation. Thinking it will all blow over, Charlie takes his time finding a lawyer. When it turns out everything isn’t going to blow over, he turns to Bert Spitz (Alan Alda).
The first order of business is to get an apartment in Los Angeles since everything now will be done according to the laws of California. This drives Charlie nuts because he believes they are New Yorkers! This isn’t going to be the only line in the sand to be drawn by Nicole’s attorney. Once the case hits court, Charlie is about to find out how much more his life is about to change.
The lawyers start with the smallest of accusations making them huge and worthy of fodder for the judge to deal with. Watching his own lawyer Bert accept what is happening, Charlie hires Jay Marotta (Ray Liotta) to try and salvage what is left of their shredded lives.
This is the story of love, relationships and what happens when those two things break down completely.
Johansson as Nicole is a woman who decides that she wants something more in her life. Letting her husband pursue his dreams, she decides that its time for her to do the same. I have to say that Johansson character was a tad bit shady in her dealings and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I mean really? I get that using the laws to her advantage is one thing but wow, I was head shaking a time or two. Of course, Johansson gives a stellar performance but I expect nothing less.
Driver as Charlie is a man who is sort of a bit of a narcissist in that he thinks what he does is more important that what’s going on in the real world. Don’t get me wrong, I think he was done under a time or two but at the same time he was seriously oblivious to his wife and young child. This is the year of Driver with saying adios to Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: The Rise of Skywalker, THE REPORT and now MARRIAGE STORY.
Dern as Fanshaw came in with legal guns blazing but then that’s what California divorce lawyers do with a good case that has the potential to be a money maker. Did that sound biting? Oh well. Alda as Spitz gives that California-laid-back lets-not-work-ourselves-up-lawyer-vibe that works well with Charlie – in the beginning anyway. Liotta as Marotta is the kind of lawyer Charlie needed from the beginning but there is a price to be paid for that kind of game play.
It was great to see Julie Hagerty on the screen again as Sandra who seemed to be more on Charlie’s side than her daughters.
Other cast include – Martha Kelly as The Evaluator, Rich Fulcher as the Judge, Mark O’Brien as Carter, Kyle Bornheimer as Ted, Matthew Shear as Terry, Brooke Bloom as Mary Ann, and Merritt Wever as Cassie.
MARRIAGE STORY is a harsh film to take in on many levels because there isn’t a speck of it that isn’t true in most divorces I’ve ever heard about. It is about the break down of communication between two people who are used to having words written to say by someone else so getting their own out takes a bit. They are a creative couple who have created a marriage that isn’t working without special effects.
That’s what makes their separation so difficult to watch, mainly because all I could think was how easy it all could have gone if they JUST TALKED it out. No secrets, no surprises and no other childish nonsense that seems to go hand in hand with divorces these days.
So, I think MARRIAGE STORY should be required before anyone gets married, especially the scene when the Evaluator visits both Charlie and Nicole because wow! Add THE WAR OF THE ROSES into that viewing list as well for good measure.
There will be awards and nominations for both Johannson and Driver to be sure because their performances are very good. Currently the awards up for grabs as the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild so watch for those coming soon.
In the end – just a look inside one marriage.
THE REPORT Outs Abuse
Currently on Amazon Prime Video from writer/director Scott Z. Burns, Unbranded Pictures and Amazon Studios is a story of what happened to detainees after 9-11 because of THE REPORT.
Daniel Jones (Adam Driver) is a staffer for California Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Benning). Chairing the senate Select Committee on Intelligence, she asks Jones to investigate the CIA. Specifically she wants to know about the terror suspects being detained after 9-11.
Putting a team together in a high security location that is practically a vault, Jones is joined by April (Sarah Goldberg) and Julian (Lucas Dixon) pouring through thousands of documents. From the beginning Jones is appalled by what they are finding. The room walls begin to fill up with photos of detainees and their connection to Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the 9-11 attacks.
What they also discover is the beginnings of the program of torturing also called EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques), like water boarding, in order to get what they feel is vital information about on-going plans or future plans for attacks. It becomes clear to Jones and Feinstein that no one is willing to take responsibility although there is evidence. In particular is evidence of a Panetta Review that Jones is keeping to himself.
During a confirmation hearing of Caroline Krass, Senator Mark Udall (Scott Shephard) let it be known that the Panetta Review believed in the accuracy of the study. That opens pandora's box as Feinstein is under the gun and Jones is being accused of hacking. Feeling as if the walls are closing in, Jones is forced to make a choice about whether it is time to be a whistleblower or allow the process to have its day.
Believing in everything they have been working on for over six years, Jones and Feinstein put it on the line knowing that once the information is out, they have done their job. The frustration lay in those who would do anything to cover up what has happened and from the Panetta Report from coming out.
Driver as Jones is about as intense as a person could be given his profession. Being asked to head the investigation into the timeline of events and who knew what, when and is responsible for approving the EITs. Like a dog with a bone, Driver gives his character the fortitude to question everyone who is trying to double talk their way out of responsibility. Told not to make anything about his investigation personal, it is clear that personal is the way it needed to be taken in order to get accountability. It is clear Driver can give intensity (hellooooo…Kylo Ren!) and it is that characteristic that gets the viewer into the game asking questions of their own.
Benning as Feinstein wants answers to the questions that seem to be consistently deflected by her colleagues. With Jones at the helm she finds an ally who isn't going stop until they get to the root of it all. With ever meeting, ever hearing and every telephone call to the White House, she gets closer to calling the wide net bluff of the misrepresentation of what actually happened.
Shout out to Jon Hamm who plays Denis McDonough. First introduced in the beginning of the film meeting Jones for a job, I'm sure the McConough wished he had taken more of an interested in his job applicant! Trying to stay one step ahead of everything Jones finds, it is Hamm's character that always seems to be dodging bullets.
This film has a huge, and I mean huge cast and I want to make sure they all get a mention: Corey Stoll as Cyrus Clifford, Linda Powell as Marcy Morris, John Rothman as Senator Whitehouse, Victor Slezak as Senator Rockefeller, Guy Boyd as Senator Chambliss, Alexander Chaplin as Sean Murphy, Joanne Tucker as Gretchen, Maura Tierney as Bernadette, Michael C. Hall as Thomas Eastman, Ian Blackman as Cofer Black, Dominic Fumusa as George Tenet, Fajer Al-Kaisi as Ali Soufan, Douglas Hodge as James Mitchell, T. Ryder Smith as Bruce Jessen, Carlos Gomez as Jose Rodriguez, Tim Nelson as Raymond Nathan, Ted Levine as John Brennan, and Noah Bean as Senator Heinrich.
Also included in archival footage are Dick Cheney, John Kerry, Rachel Maddow, Donald Rumsfeld, John McCain and former President Barack Obama.
Amazon Prime offers television shows and original content included in its Amazon Prime subscription. Original programs such as CARNIVAL ROW, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL are hit shows. Coming soon is the next series with GOLIATH starring Billy Bob Thornton and it promises to another successful and intense series.
THE REPORT is an in-depth look at what it takes for truth to surface. Driver's portrayal of Daniel Jones helps us understand the connections and how the departments of the government don't work together very well. What is actually a stand out statement is when Jones sees a lawyer Cyrus Clifford and is told he doesn't have a legal problem, he has a sunlight problem - meaning transparency.
That is a stunning way to put it and that statement caused me to listen even more to the story and especially pay attention to the details. So much so that I fell for every minute hook, line and actor. Each of them does an outstanding job with such a difficult subject matter. Keeping the intensity going (as if Driver wasn't enough!) throughout the film just adds layer upon layer of depth and, I loved it!
In the end - truth matters!
Put on your Running Shoes for BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
Coming to Amazon Prime from writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo is the story we listen to and the one we create for ourselves with BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON.
Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a 20-something New Yorker who is a greeter at a way-off Broadway theatre. Living with social media grabber Gretchen (Alice Lee), the two party till the break of dawn with drinking and a few other substances. When the supply runs low, Brittany heads to the nearest doctor but instead the only prescription she gets is to lose weight and get healthy.
Thinking maybe it's time and realizing paying for a gym is to hysterical to contemplate, she decides to be her own gym. Stepping out for her first run she sees Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a neighbor Brittany believes lives the perfect live which is annoying. Instead, Catherine invites her to join a running group meeting another new friend Seth (Micah Stock).
Seeing that Gretchen is just not going to support anything other than Brittany being the overweight, third wheel, partying friend, she looks for work that will get her away. Becoming a house and pet sitter she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who has found a way to work the system which annoys Brittany as well.
But the running starts to show results and Brittany can't believe it, pound after pound she begins to find a little bit of self-respect and decides to run a marathon. Catherine and Seth are so excited that the three of them are going accomplish it together! That is until Brittany hurts her ankles and is forced to put her dream on hold.
Hurt by it all she returns to some of her old habits such as eating and being a little more than nasty to anyone around her. Ignoring Catherine and Seth the downward spiral continues until brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) who has always been there for her sets Brittany sternly straight.
Brittany has her own personal epiphany about her friendships, what she wants for her life and who is important but does she have the nerve to change everything?
Bell as Brittany reminds me of someone, oh yes, me (the funny part that is)! She is sharp, funny, and self-deprecating and not quite sure how she fits in the world. Barely squeaking by has worked for her through the years but at 28-years-old, squeaking by is no longer working. That's what makes this character so engaging, most of us have been through those emotions or actions sometime in our lives. Bell gives us all the excuses and all the attitude and I feel hook, like and sneaker!
Watkins as Catherine is a woman who clearly has been misunderstood by every person she has come into contact with. A private person who is dealing with her own issues, that becomes clear to Brittany who has to adjust her long time bogus thinking about people in general. Lee as Gretchen is another person who is on the opposite end of Catherine as she is out there putting her business in the street. As with most social media addicts it's all about her world and everyone else is just living in it. Stock as Seth is such a heartwarming friend who sticks with Brittany when most would turn tail and run!
Ambudkar as Jern is funny, irreverent and is the opposite of Brittany in the sense that she takes everything like a direct hit to the heart and Jern is more the slow-down-and-smoke-a-bowl type. It doesn't mean he doesn't care, he just cares differently than Brittany which she can't grasp. Howrey as Demetrius is the guy we all wish we had in our lives in that he has been there through everything and still sees the best but don't think he won't check a body if they are being just plain wrong.
Other cast include Patch Darragh as Doctor Falloway, Erica Hernandez as Molly, Dan Bittner as Terrence, Mikey Day as Dev, Kate Arrington as Cici, Beth Malone as Tesla, and Esteban Benito as Peter
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BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is a film that on the surface is witty, funny, sarcastic and a bit shallow. That's how it starts but as the film gets deeper it is still witty, funny and throws of sarcasms but the "bit shallow" part starts to melt away slowly. Instead of a woman who seems to be just Adderall-floating by in life, a person who has come to believe everything she's ever been told about herself emerges.
Having never really made the important choices, her bell has been rung and it's time to come out fighting. That doesn't mean there aren't set back and life disappointments (welcome to adulthood Brittany!), but it is in how she handles those same setbacks that are what show her growth from the beginning of the film to the end.
Oh I realize we've all done this in one form or another but seeing it all in one film certainly brings any unanswered life questions right to the face. It's nice when a movie can make one laugh at it all but still walk away thinking 'am I doing all I want to do?'.
In the end - you can't rush progress!
Amazon Studios CARNIVAL ROW brings Mystery and Fantasy
Currently on Amazon Prime is the first season of an original mystery and fantasy of along CARNIVAL ROW.
Vignette Stonemoss (Cara Delevingne) is a fae who has escaped from an attack on her homeland from the Pact. Finding her way to a ship, a storm then sinks it and she is the sole survivor. The ship belongs to Ezra Spurnrose (Andrew Gower) and seeing Vignette as an indentured servant on the ship expects her to now work in his home as a maid. Knowing she must survive in this new place, Vignette visits Carnival Row and finds Tourmaline (Karla Crome). They have so much to catch up on but the biggest surprise is discovering that the man she loves, Philo (Orlando Bloom) is actually alive. Living the past seven years believing he was dead, Vignette is shocked and angry.
Philo is investigating the recent attacks on what are known as fae-folk as a police inspector. Aisling is one of the fae that is murdered and Philo continues to follow the clues. Taking it step by step he talks to everyone involved with the victims only to come up against a man warning him that a creature he calls the "dark-god" is responsible. If that isn't freaky enough, Vignette makes herself known to Philo and she does so with a vengence. She doesn't understand how he could have gone all this time letting her suffer thinking she had lost him and Philo has no answers for her.
Spurnrose lives in the richer part of town with his sister Imogen (Tamzin Merchant) and both are horrified to learn that their new neighbor Agreus (David Gyasi) is a faun which is unacceptable to them. It is considered ridiculous that a creature would try to make his way into society. When Spurnrose finally confides in Imogen that their finances aren't what they should be, a deal is struck with Agreus - his backing for a new ship for introduction into high society. Imogen agrees to make that happen.
The Chancellor Absalom Breakspear (Jared Harris) is trying to keep the peace in the city along with his wife Piety (Indira Varma) and son Jonah (Arty Froushan). He knows something is going on and advises them to steer clear of Carnival Row. That doesn't stop Jonah from being kidnapped but they don't know who is responsible.
It is finally revealed how Burguish soldier Philo met Vignette. Her village becomes a station for the soldiers are looking for the best location for keeping an eye out for the Pact while fixing the telegraph line. While out, Philo, Vignette and his friend Darius are attacked by wolves. When the Pact attack the village in a brutal way, Vignette is taken away but told that Philo has been killed.
Now, more people are being killed and it is becoming clear that what they have in common is knowing Philo. Vignette is trying to separate herself from him as her anger toward what has happened to her people outweighs any feelings she might have for him. To that effort Philo takes his landlady out for dinner and tries to begin something but he is still in a dark place.
The Chancellor believes that Longerbane (Ronan Vibert) is responsible for the kidnapping but after he meets with disaster, his daughter Sophie (Caroline Ford) steps in and Jonah is actually found. The young man believes he knows who is actually responsible for his capture but doesn't want to call it out in case he is wrong. Seeing Sophie in chambers for the first time, he is captivated by her but mom Petrie isn't as happy about it.
As more secrets are brought out in the open, Philo and Vignette realize that they must work together to find out what is killing those in Carnival Row. The landlady isn't as happy and tells Philo's officers a secret that she knows about him leading to his arrest for murder.
The relationship between Agreus and Imogen has her brother aggravated and wants it to stop. He understands that they may need his money but as others in town start offering to socialize with Agreus, he sees no need to keep up appearances for his sister. Chancellor Breakspear wants to help Philo and Vignette but doesn't realize that he is about to have his life altered by a Puck, the last group that would ever be suspected.
The dominos are starting to fall and it is leading a showdown on Carnival Row that no one could have ever imagined!
Bloom as Philo has the look of a man tortured by his orphaned past, losing his love and seeing the worst of mankind in his role as an officer of the law. When Philo sees Vignette, he is reminded of so much of the past that it could interfere with what is happening right in front of him. Bloom has taken on such a dark character but it wouldn't be the first time. In CARNIVAL ROW he has the added bonus of so many dark characters all around him and a story that is filled with twists that he fits right in.
Delevingne as Vignette is a fierce fae who isn't about to put her people or their culture ahead of anything else, except for maybe love. Not a fan of Philo in the beginning, she begins to realize that he doesn't mean her or the fae any harm. When she thinks him gone, it breaks her heart but not her spirit. She can easily take care of herself but once on Carnival Row, Vignette realizes that her anger at Philo is far down the list of what it takes to survive. Delevinge is quite perfect for this role in that she has the fae look and makes the role her very own and I love that about this character.
Gower as Spurnrose is absolutely yucky from top to bottom of his character and this actor plays it dripping with distain. That's what makes it such a fantastic role! I can't stand Spurnrose yet I also can't wait to see how he's going to make me dislike him even more and Gower doesn't disappoint. Merchant as Imogen is as stuck up as one would expect from a woman of her time and station. She doesn't care about anything or anyone but herself and her finery and yet it takes a Puck to make her see past all of that.
Gyasi as Agreus is a Puck to isn't about to let anyone, human or otherwise, tell him how to live his life. Enjoying the fine home he purchased for himself and man-servant Jim, he also has the uncanny knack of knowing what humans are thinking. His relationship with Imogen is not one either is happy about but it does have its clever perks. Crome as Tourmaline sees what her friend Vignette is going through and it hurts her heart but for more reason that either wants to openly admit.
Varma as Piety is a woman who understands the politics that her husband is part of but also enjoys the lifestyle it provides. She also knows that something is changing on Carnival Row and wants her son to stay away. When he is kidnapped, she suspects everyone. Froushan as Jonah is a young man who is use to a certain lifestyle and doesn't have much expected of him. Smothered by his mother and feeling like he is disappointing his father, he finds a strange solace at Carnival Row. Ford as Sophie begins to provide Jonah with another kind of distraction and no one is pleased about it. She is a strong character who doesn't mind breaking the rules in order to get higher up in the ranks.
Harris as the Chancellor continues to be on an amazing streak of roles in the last few years. I absolutely love everything he does including the recent HBO mini-series CHERNOBYL, the AMC series THE TERROR, and the series THE CROWN. There is a presence about this actor that I'm drawn to see what role he will take next and in CARNIVAL ROW he once again is full of human frailty hidden under the robes of politics - even if it is the politics of the different.
Shout out to Alice Krige as Aoife who also is an actress that I follow because she is so multi-dimensional and in CARNIVAL ROW she is creepy yet honestly a character I was never afraid of. Of course Aoife could probably turn me into a toad if she wanted but there is something straight forward in this role that I appreciated and was fascinated by.
Other cast include Ariyon Bakare as Darius, Maeve Dermody as Portia Fyfe, Jamie Harris as Sgt. Dombey, Waj Ali as Constable Berwick, James Beaumont as Constable Cuppins, Jim High as Fergus, Erika Starkova as
Aisling and Simon McBurney as Runyon Millworthy.
This year CARNIVAL ROW made a showing at San Diego Comic Con International 2019 and the crowd couldn't have been happier. Of course what made it even more special was that Bloom and Delevingne hid underneath costumes so that the big reveal brought the crowd to their feet with cheers. The audience was then treated to a special screening of the series and some even lucky enough to walk away with a pair of very luminescent wings. I knew then that the show was something special and am please to say that there will a second season.
I absolutely love the darkness of the show and I don't mean the less than colorful costuming but the story and the characters that are wrapped up in every fiber of it all. Just when you think its all figured out - nope! Lets be honest, the show starts out in a million knots and we are left, episode by episode, to unravel it like a fine chain necklace. Those who have ever tried to get knots out of a fine chain necklace know exactly what I'm talking about.
Vague in this review? Absolutely. There is no way I want to dive to deeply into the story because that is what makes CARNIVAL ROW such a draw. There is a lot going on so instead of giving it all away, I brought out some of the characters that I appreciated because something tells me we haven't heard the last from any of them (well, maybe a few of them).
The story is based in a fantastical mythology of fae, pucks, spells, history, culture and a tale that is all to familiar in that what is different people are afraid of. By the end of the series you will understand why a second season is not only needed but necessary. I personally want to see where Philo and Vignette are going to take this journey of theirs and for reasons you will see when you binge watch the first season of CARNIVAL ROW on Amazon Prime.
In the end - there is so much more to their story!
GAME OF THRONES
Revisits the Iron Throne on Bluray
Coming to Bluray from HBO Home Entertainment comes the final season of a series that has captured the heart of the world as we all became part of GAME OF THRONES.
Our time in Westeros came to an end and that saddened me in a dual way. I came to enjoy my Sunday evenings all cured up with my yarn crocheting while watching (yes I can crochet without looking) the antics of heroes and villains I either openly cheered and jeered or even secretly cheered.
The cast of GAME OF THRONES is one fans have felt they have watched grow into their characters. From the first season even I wasn't sure what this was all about having not read the books but was immediately curious with each episode. I'm not sure if it was because I wanted to see if Sean Bean lived (as he tended not to do with his characters) or my love of period pieces but week after week I stayed.
The journey of the Stark clan with Ned (Bean), Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), Robb (Richard Madden), Sansa (Sophie turner), Arya (Maisie Williams), Bran (Isaac Wright) and the bastard Jon Snow (Kit Harington) didn't take long to be put under the thumb of the Lannisters'.
Speaking of a dysfunctional family led by Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), daughter Cersei Lannister-Baratheon (Lena Headey), along with sons Jamie (Niolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) made sure fans appreciated their own families more. Of course dangling on that family tree was also the kid most likely to be strangled by the masses Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) amongst the rest of the kids.
Then there was this little blonde Targaryen girl named Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) who was traded to a very tall Dothraki leader in the form of Jason Momoa. Of course there is a history of craziness in her own family that she needs to come to terms with. That little marriage brought out the Mother of Dragons who flew her way into creating an army as we all cheered her on.
Of course behind the two families were such characters as Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Samwell Tarly (John Bradley, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Aidan Gillen as Lord Baelish, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), The Hound (Rory McCann), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Melisandre (Carice van Houten), and the beloved Hodor (Kristian Nairn).
There are so many characters to name that I just don't have enough room or time to write this all out so let's move on and know that I am giving credit to every character as they are due with our humble thanks.
Onward, each season the story line grew bigger and bigger, so much so that I couldn't wait to go to Comic Con and sit in on the panel AND happily receive a goodie that included an awesome bag and inside a book so that I could read what I was missing, Seeing the casts on panels, it was fun to hear them talk about their time on the show as well as trying so very hard not to give anything away.
As the story unfolded season after season there was plans, survival, death, secrets, destruction, betrayal, power struggles (with family and with distant family) and all in the name of the Iron Throne and who will end up sitting on it. We began with Robert Baratheon and his friendship with Ned Stark and ended up with Joffrey being the next king (and I use a small 'k' because it fits him). Joffrey was the kind of king who would burn the wings of flies with a magnifying glass while his mother Cersei stands behind egging him on.
That's when Sansa gets put into play between the Starks and Lannisters but there is oh so much more to that story. As the houses begin to shift and loyalties become apparent, the one person who isn't loyal to anyone is Tyrion and that's when I started cheering for him. Yes, I understand that he has a problem with prostitutes and he likes to spout that 'That's what I do, I drink and I know things!' becoming his (and our) mantra.
We watched weddings, funerals, battles, enemies from far away and enemies close up fighting for supremacy, lack of love, a few crushes, women being passed on and men being passed over, magic, dragons, friendships (both faked and deserved), honesty wrapped in lies, and oh so much more in Westeros. Our loyalties, like the characters in Westeros, were solid - until they weren't.
The break between season 7 and 8 was the longest break in the show and fans believed, as I did, that it was because the last season would be epic. We bit our collective tongues when it was announced that there would only be six episodes, and we bit even harder when we learned collectively that it would be almost two years before the end would happen. Okay, we are die-hards, we can take it…right….RIGHT?
And so we all did, rumors would drop here and there and speculation about what would happen in the final season kept fans going until the first trailer dropped. I think the world might have stopped spinning for a second or two when that happened. It didn't give us much but it was something and we were raised to believe that it was better than nothing.
Then that first Sunday brought us all back, and sometimes in groups, to see who would finally sit on the Iron Throne. Bets were placed, surveys taken, and polls done with different opinions varying with Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys, Arya and Sansa being the top picks.
As the finale drew near, I put my favorite Westeros shirt on and filled up my Tyrion "that's what I do is drink and I know things' cup and prepared to see who would finally sit on the Iron Throne.
In Season 8 Winterfell brings Jon and Daenerys against the White Walkers and the Night King. There are still secrets that are about to be dropped and Arya has a plan of her own. Theon decides he must return, as does Jaime Lannister to help in the fight for Winterfell and Sam reveals a startling truth to Jon. Euron is back in King's Landing making sure that Cersei understands what it is he wants and that's to share the Iron Throne.
Jaime doesn't hesitate to share what he knows about Cersei and Brienne is happy to see him. Bran sees Jaime and the time has finally come to talk about what started all of the madness. Bran decides that he should be the one to bring the Night King out knowing what he truly wants. Sansa isn't giving an inch where her distrust in Dani is concerned.
The battle against the White Walkers bring the soldiers, Unsullied, and Dothraki to put together their plan. Melisandre brings her own brand of help as well as well as Jon and Dani riding the two remaining dragons against Viserion. All those fighting see people they love fall and rise again in this battle that can only have one outcome.
Decisions have to be made about King's Landing as Dani makes Gendry a Baratheon. With his new title he hopes there is one person in the Stark family who will be a part of his new kingdom. Jaime and Brienne have a moment of their own but it isn't to last an a particular loyalty can't be forgotten. Jon tells his Stark 'siblings' what he knows about his lineage but it doesn't stop the army from moving towards King's Landing.
Tyrion continues to stand with Dani as they all set sail when Missandei is taken by Cersei, there will be no surrender when her friend is taken. He also learns that Jaime has been captured and he will do what a brother must for a brother. Varys has plans of his own as well not trusting that Dani has what it takes to sit on the Iron Throne and that causes his betrayal.
All of this leads to Dani doing the unthinkable, Tyrion telling Jon that what was done was unconscionable and the Iron Throne still for the taking. It is time to finally see who will take power and what that future looks like for them all.
HBO Home Entertainment brings critically-acclaimed and groundbreaking programming throughout the world. Releases include the global hit Game of Thrones, True Detective, Girls, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, True Blood, The Wire and Entourage. The company's catalog contains hundreds of titles including Big Little Lies and Band of Brothers. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.hbo.com.
GAME OF THRONES: The Complete Collection and GAME OF THRONES: The Complete Series on Bluray have the Bonus Features: GAME OF THRONES: Reunion Special - A reunion show shot live in Belfast with the cast, both past and present, hosted by Conan O'Brien and available exclusively on these complete series collections. The reunion special is assembled in segments focused on Houses Lannister, Stark and Targaryen and concludes with the key players all onstage for their final reflections on the years they shared in Westeros and Essos.
Also, Bonus Content and exclusive videos from previously released individual season box sets, totaling more than 15 hours of extra materials for fans to explore when they've finished watching the series.
The Complete Series and Season 8 formats also exclusively feature GAME OF THRONES: The Last Watch: A documentary featured on DVD in two parts by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay chronicling the making of the final season, WHEN WINTER FALLS: Exclusive 30-minute featurette with showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with major stars and behind-the-scenes players, breaking down all that went into the colossal filming of the 'Battle of Winterfell' in Season 8, Episode 3.
Also, DUTY IS THE DEATH OF LOVE: A compelling look at how the team behind GAME OF THRONES and its major stars, including Kit Harington, Peter Dinklage and Emilia Clarke, brought the show to its conclusion in the series finale, 'The Iron Throne'. Audio Commentaries, Deleted and Extended Scenes, and Histories and Lore.
Yes, that's all I'm going to say because I think it's very important that those who have not seen the final season have their own chance to jaw drop. So, what did we learn on our journey? We learned that absolute power corrupts absolutely so sometimes melting a throne is best and love doesn't conqueror all, in fact in Westeros love could get you killed and usually did. We understood many things about the trials of some characters and we embraced others who seemed un-embraceable. Twisted life lessons but lessons all the same.
From the very beginning we all knew this was a game, a game among men and women for a throne, something that didn't care about any of them was easily taken away. A game of life and death and there was plenty of that to go around from all the seven kingdoms.
We also learned that loyalty exists, friendships can come from the most unlikely places, that family (even dysfunctional ones) will beat each other up but let no one else do it and that magic is in the eyes of the beholder. All of these things are what makes us love GAME OF THRONES even when we are disgruntled by it.
We will all settle in time, we will watch and re-watch until a comfortability sets in. We will wait to see if the prequels that are rumored will give us back our Sunday's evenings of being whisked away to another time, another place and another story and restore our suspension of disbelief.
In Westeros, after everything, they are beginning again. In our own imaginations let us hope that the choices made in the finale send them all on their way to a peace not known in Westeros for eight season.
After holding our collective breaths the final season returns to re-visit old friends and enemies. It should keep us busy until we see the first trailer to the prequel to GAME OF THRONES.
In the words of Tyrion and the truth is in it, even after everything that has happened in the years we've all invested in GAME OF THRONES, "even knowing what I know now, I'd do it again" - and we will.