Category Archives: Feature Film

BEN AFFLECK TO STAR IN HYPNOTIC, DIRECTED BY ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Posted by Larry Gleeson

First Green Lit Picture Under Studio 8 and Solstice Strategic Partnership

LOS ANGELES (November 6, 2019) Academy Award® winner Ben Affleck will star in Robert Rodriguez’s mind-bending action thriller Hypnotic. Production is scheduled to start in April. This is the first greenlit film under Studio 8 and Solstice Studios strategic partnership.

Hypnotic is an action thriller directed by Robert Rodriguez (Alita: Battle Angel, Sin City) and written by Rodriguez and Max Borenstein (Godzilla franchise, Kong: Skull Island). The film follows a detective (Affleck) who becomes entangled in a mystery involving his missing daughter and a secret government program–while investigating a string of impossible high-end heists. Rodriguez, Studio 8 CEO Jeff Robinov and his colleagues Guy Danella & John Graham will produce the film with Solstice, which will spearhead US distribution and international sales beginning at the AFM this week.

“Working with Ben on his award-winning projects, including Argo and The Town, I have seen how his versatility and creativity have made him one of the most talented filmmakers both in front of and behind the camera,” said Robinov. “It’s very meaningful to be collaborating with Ben again on this uniquely riveting suspense thriller, and I know he and Robert will make a terrific film together.”

BEN AFFLECK credit John Russo
Ben Affleck (Credit: John Russo)

Affleck is a multiple award-winning actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. He has won two Academy Awards as well as multiple Golden Globe, BAFTA, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He’s best known for his work directing and starring in the Warner Bros. Best Picture Academy Award ® winner Argo and The Town in which he starred, directed and co-wrote. Previous leading roles include Justice League, The Accountant, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Gone Girl and State of Play. He directed Gone Baby Gone and starred in and co-wrote Good Will Hunting. Affleck is represented by William Morris Endeavor (WME).

 ABOUT STUDIO 8

STUDIO 8 is a filmmaker-driven company focused on building longstanding relationships with filmmakers in order to develop, produce and acquire both potential tentpoles and prestige pictures. STUDIO 8 partners with filmmakers and talent to make possible their unique creative vision and deliver that vision to audiences globally. STUDIO 8 founder and CEO, Jeff Robinov, previously served as an executive at Warner Bros., climbing the ranks to serve as President of Warner Bros. Pictures Group.

ABOUT SOLSTICE STUDIOS

Solstice Studios is an independent movie company based in Los Angeles, founded in October 2018. The studio develops, fully finances, produces, sells internationally and distributes feature films in the U.S. on a wide-release basis.  Solstice plans to produce 3-5 movies per year for a global audience—generally in the $20-80M budget range.  It also plans to co-finance or acquire another 1-2 films per year for wide US distribution.  The company has a partnership with Ingenious Media.  Solstice recently completed production of its first feature film, Unhinged starring Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius opening August 28, 2020.

The Solstice team has a $5 billion production track record and is expected to grow to 65 people. The company’s senior team includes President & CEO Mark Gill, Head of Production Lisa Ellzey, Co-Production Head Guy Botham, Marketing/Strategy Head Vincent Bruzzese, Acquisitions & International Head Crystal Bourbeau, Business & Legal Affairs Head Karen Barna, Chief Financial Officer Shaun Williams and Head of US Distribution Shari Hardison.

 

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FILM REVIEW: The Lighthouse (Eggers, 2019)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Lighthouse Poster

Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe star as two lightkeepers, Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake, trying to survive and maintain their sanity on a mysterious island while living at a remote, New England lighthouse in the 1890s, in The Lighthouse, directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch). Evoking such seafaring literary classics by Herman Mehlville (Moby Dick) and Ernest Hemingway (Old Man and the Sea) as the film opens with an almost square aspect ratio (1.19:1) harkening back to early cinema. The effect is at once claustrophobic and mysteriously out of place.

In a traditional narrative fashion, the characters are introduced and established. Winslow, a strapping, mysterious, young man of few words and who appears to have a troubled past claiming a work history as a Canadian lumberjack is the hired help (wickie) under contract for four weeks with hopes of moving up the ladder and someday hoping to become a lighthouse operator like his housemate Wake, a salty, crusty archetypal seaman. Wake comes across as an experienced sea hand with knowledge of sailor life and mythology who has the inexplicable behavior of farting loudly much to Winlow’s chagrin. Moreover, Wake treats Winslow harshly despite Winlsow’s unswerving dedication to carrying out the chores, emptying chamber pots and swabbing the floor repeatedly to Wake’s unending condemnation.

The two work together, sleep together and eat together. Winslow refrains from alcohol until a storm begins pounding the lighthouse. Together the two imbibe, dance, sing and became Marry. Soon, however, a darkness creeps in and the two men vie for control of the lighthouse. Also, Wake refuses Winslow access to the lantern room atop the lighthouse. Intrigued a jealous Winslow begins spying on Wake’s ritualistic time in front of the massive light bulb and becomes infatuated with Wake’s unearthly obsession. The two lighthouse keepers engage in an escalating battle of wills in a tension-fed, trapped scenario with mysterious forces, real or imagined, looming while a seemingly never-ending storm rages outside, leaving the men stranded.

Eggers uses several crew members from The Witch including cinematographer Jarin Blaschke, production designer Craig Lathrop, costume designer Linda Muir, composer Mark Korven, and editor, Louise Ford, to transport the audience into a realm of terrifying unknown. The cinematography is nothing short of spectacular as the lighting and framing create a sense of the paranormal. And, the production design along with the costuming transports the viewer, via the suspension of disbelief, into the time of the 1890s capturing the harshness of the film’s setting. Furthermore, Pattinson and DaFoe play off of each other very well. But, in my opinion, the attention to detail with the sound design including foghorn, seagulls, waves, machinery, and furnace, lend strong credence to the film’s reality.

The stormy night is when the film goes into warp drive and provides a catalyst for all the odd and unusual behavior to come alive and take over the film’s consciousness. Eggers’s use of black and white allows for the utmost effect in facial lines and scene shadowing. These scenes have a supernatural, expressionistic appearance as the film delves into insanity. What emerges is a tragic Greek myth (it begins with a capital P). Highly recommended!

 

FILM REVIEW: The Current War Director’s Cut

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse, The Current War is the story of the rivalry between the greatest inventors of the industrial age over whose electrical system would power the country’s economic engine in the coming century. Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and written by playwright Michael Mitnick (Sex Lives of our Parents), The Current War also stars Katherine Waterston as Margurite Westinghouse, Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla, Tom Holland as Samuel Insull (Edison’s personal secretary), Matthew Macfadyen as J.P. Morgan and Tuppence Middleton as Mary Edison. The acting is as good as any I’ve seen this year. An easy comparison is an upcoming film December 20th, 2019 release date), The Aeronauts, with Oscar-winner, Eddie Redmayne, and Felicity Jones as the leads, in a fun, entertaining historical drama about hot-air ballooning in the 1880’s. Moreover, after seeing The Current War, I’m looking forward to the “in-production” biographical work, Tesla, starring Ethan Hawke.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison in The Current War. (Photo Credit: Dean Rogers)

But, first, let’s return to the electrical Current War. Backed by J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan with his patented bulb. Westinghouse and Tesla light the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, sparking the infamous war of currents. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on what Edison called “risky and dangerous” alternating current. Edison plotted to poison the public’s mind by associating Westinghouse with a new form of humane capital punishment – death by electrocution – powered by Westinghouse Electric. More on that, later. Astonishingly, Benedict Cumberbatch channels Edison with such grace and ease, I found my self suspending disbelief. Cumberbatch’s performance reminded me of his captivating impersonation of Sherlock Holmes in the TV Series, Sherlock (2010, 15 episodes).

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Tom Holland, left, as Edison’s personal secretary, Samuel Insull, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison in The Current War. (Photo Credit: Dean Rogers)
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Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse in The Current War. (Photo Credit: Dean Rogers)

While Edison loses out to Westinghouse in the end, Edison simply moves on to his next project – motion pictures! Meanwhile, Michael Shannon’s formidable impersonation of George Westinghouse is nothing short of spectacular. Shannon returns to form that garnered an Oscar nomination (Nocturnal Animals) as Westinghouse, who  despite his intimidating presence simply wanted to create something that would benefit the public saying, “If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied.” With his back against the wall, Westinghouse is forced to reveal Edison’s attempt to discredit the Westinghouse and the superiority of alternating current as opposed to Edison’s direct current.

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Katherine Waterston as Marguerite Westinghouse, left, with Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse in The Current War. (Photo Credit: Dean Rogers)

While the two don’t appear on screen together very often ( I believe it’s twice), the connection between Edison and Westinghouse is undeniable. Each backing his own current of electricity. To me, this is the artistic essence of the film. Gomez-Rejon melds the human and electrical stories into one in a seamless fashion. It is remarkable. The Current War is highly entertaining, informative, and polished with a compelling narrative. The costuming and makeup speak for themselves – delectable. The ensemble cast is exquisite. The production design is excellent. The lighting and sound add a powerful context and a balanced emotional heft. And, the mise-en-scene is captivating. Very, very warmly recommended!

*Featured photo: Nicholas Hoult as Nikola Tesla in The Current War. (Photo Credit: Dean Rogers)

FILM REVIEW: The Laundromat (Soderbergh, 2019) USA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brokovich, Magic Mike) reunites with writer/producer, Scott Z Burns (The Informant, The Report) in The Laundromat, starring three-time Oscar-winner, Meryl Streep, as Ellen Martin. Martin is enjoying a wistful vacation with her husband when a tragic boating accident on Lake George happens. Martin is bereft yet manages to keep a positive outlook as she engages in meetings with her lawyer to discuss her financial options regarding her husband’s life insurance and wrongful death settlement.  Martin plans to use the settlement money for a down payment on a condominium overlooking the Las Vegas strip. Actress Sharon Stone makes a cameo as a pent-up, high strung, real estate agent who delivers a searing blow to Martin’s plans. Bewildered and befuddled, Martin sets out to discover whom and what is behind these financial shenanigans she’s encountering. All roads eventually lead to a Panama City law firm, Mossack Fonseca, and two lawyers, Jurgen Mossack, played by Oscar-winner Gary Oldman, and Ramon Fonseca, portrayed by Golden Globe nominee, Antonio Banderas.

The film is adapted from Secrecy World by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter
Jake Bernstein and is based on true events emanating from a 2016 journalistic whistleblower release of 11.5 million documents, known as the Panama Papers, containing pages of dubious and nefarious transactions designed to protect and enhance the wealth of the world’s richest people. Hats off to Soderbergh and Burns in taking a very dark subject and turning it into comedy. Allowing Oldman and Banderas to portray Mossack and Fonseca in comedic characters enables the subject matter an easier digestion.

Oldman and Banderas provide an abundance of comic relief with voice-over narrations and appearing on-screen as the dapperly-dressed legal counselors. The duo attempt to justify their actions as they hilarious provide background information on how our financial system came to into existence and what all people have in common – money. Their explanations as to why they did what they did involve vignettes in China, Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands and wind up ending in Panama as they ultimately reveal the various and sundry illicit and absurd actions such as bribery, murder, and tax evasions the super-wealthy engage themselves in to support the world’s financial system and protect themselves from losing wealth. Streep delivers an exceptionally solid performance as Ellen Martin and manages to deliver the finest moment in the film without missing a beat.

THE LAUNDROMAT

The Laundromat follows a number of films dealing comedically with the dark matter of our current financial system. Adam McKay’s 2015 Oscar-winner The Big Short (Best Adapted Screenplay) and Martin Scorsese’s 2013 AFI Movie of the Year, The Wolf of Wall Street readily come to mind. Yet, Soderbergh captures a moment in time without most audience members realizing what is taking place on-screen. And, like Scorsese and McKay’s work, The Laundromat artfully and skillfully provides an exquisite commentary on more than just the current state of our world’s financial system. Hint: It’s in the details. One of the year’s most important films. Highly recommended.

Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman makes its LA Premiere

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Legendary Director, Martin Scorcese’s long-awaited mobster epic, The Irishman made its Los Angeles premiere yesterday in a strictly invite-only screening. The film has been in the news for the last several years amidst budgeting and financing. Early buzz – the film is very good!

Check out the clips and trailer and upcoming release dates, you’ll be glad you did!

See you at the movies!

Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci star in Martin Scorsese’s THE IRISHMAN, an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

The Irishman had its world premiere at the 57th New York Film Festival on September 27, 2019. It is scheduled to receive a limited theatrical release on November 1, 2019, followed by digital streaming on Netflix on November 27, 2019.

 

Taylor Swift and legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber have collaborated on a new, original song written for Universal Pictures’ film Cats.

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The song, “Beautiful Ghosts,” is performed by Francesca Hayward

in the film, and by Swift in the film’s end credits.

OCTOBER 24, 2019, Los Angeles, CA – Today, Universal Pictures announced that global music icon Taylor Swift and legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber have collaborated on a new, original song written for Universal Pictures’ film Cats, based on Lloyd Webber’s record-shattering stage musical. The song, “Beautiful Ghosts,” will feature in both the film and in the end credits.

Featuring Lloyd Webber’s iconic music and a world-class cast of dancers under the guidance of Tony-winning choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, In the Heights), the film re-imagines the musical for a new generation with spectacular production design, state-of-the-art technology, and dance styles ranging from classical ballet to contemporary, hip-hop to jazz, street dance to tap.

Cats, in theaters December 20, is directed by Oscar®-winning filmmaker Tom Hooper (Les Misérables, The King’s Speech), and stars Swift, James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson and Royal Ballet principal dancer Francesca Hayward.

In the film, the song is performed by Hayward, who stars in the role of Victoria. The version of the song performed by Swift, who plays Bombalurina in the film, will play over the end titles.

As part of the announcement, Universal today also released an exclusive, behind-the-scenes video documenting the creation and recording of the song and including an interview with Swift, Lloyd Webber and Hooper.

One of the longest-running shows in West End and Broadway history, the stage musical “Cats” includes some of Lloyd Webber’s most indelible songs, including “Memory.” Lloyd Webber, Swift and the filmmakers were excited at the idea of introducing a new song for the film adaptation.

Lloyd Webber saw an opportunity to create a new signature song for Victoria, whose character has been expanded for the film. “When I first read the screenplay, the first thing I said was, ‘We have to have a song for Victoria,’” Lloyd Webber says. “Beautiful Ghosts,” he says, is now, “an incredibly important and central part of the whole film.”

For director Tom Hooper, the song exceeded even his high expectations. “What I couldn’t believe was the extraordinary beauty of these lyrics that Taylor had written,” Hooper says. “It was as if someone had come into the film I was in the middle of making and … had reflected back to me a profound understanding of what we are trying to do with the movie. It was utterly thrilling.”

In Theaters December 20,2019

Genre:
Epic Musical 
Cast: 
James Corden, Judi Dench, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, and introducing Francesca Hayward
Director: 
Tom Hooper
Screenplay by: 
Lee Hall, Tom Hooper
Based on: 
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, the musical “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber
Producers: 
Debra Hayward, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Tom Hooper
Executive Producers: 
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Steven Spielberg, Angela Morrison, Jo Burn 
CATS
(Source: Universal press release)

Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Re-Release’ This Friday!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Brad Pitt

Quentin Tarantino’s second-highest-grossing film will now have four more scenes to his ninth movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The additional scene will add 10 minutes to the already lengthy two hours and forty-one-minute run-time. Most audience members will welcome the additional scenes. Sony is planning a re-release in approximately 1,500 theaters this Friday, October 25th, 2019, in what many Hollywood insiders are calling ‘a push’ for the upcoming awards season.

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Adrian Smith, Sony Pictures

“Audiences have shown tremendous support for this movie, and we look forward to offering them another opportunity to see the film as it’s meant to be seen – in theaters on the big screen – with more sights and sounds of the sixties from Quentin Tarantino as an added treat,” said Adrian Smith, President of Domestic Distribution, Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group.

Tarantino has come under fire by the Bruce Lee Estate for his Once Upon A Time in Hollywood portrayal of the martial arts legend and leading man of the early 1970’s fight films, Fist of Fury and Way of the Dragon. Nevertheless, Tarantino remains true to his artistic vision despite repeated attempts at censorship from third parties, including the massive number of Chinese film exhibition screens popping up across the Communist country.

Look for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Re-Release starting this Friday at a theatre near you.

See you at the movies!

 

 

DON’T COME BACK FROM THE MOON Opens tonight!

Posted by Larry Gleeson

DON’T COME BACK FROM THE MOON

Directed by BRUCE THIERRY CHEUNG

**Winner – Special Jury Award in Directing, Los Angeles Film Festival**

**Winner- James Lyons Award for Best Editing, Woodstock Film Festival**

**Winner – Best Narrative Feature, Southampton Film Festival**

**Winner – Best Cinematography, Southampton Film Festival**

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DON’T COME BACK FROM THE MOON starring James Franco, Rashida Jones, Jeff Wahlberg, Robert Scott Crane, Jeremiah Noe and Cheyenne Haynes,  is a story of abandonment, when all the men in a remote California desert town walk away from their families, one by one. They leave their angry, frustrated sons and daughters behind – kids who act out, engage in acts of petty burglary and vandalism, and look for love and family connection in the aftermath of their abandonment, all the while trying to understand why their fathers have “gone to the moon,” leaving them to traverse the difficult path to adulthood alone.

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DON’T COME BACK FROM THE MOON Director, Bruce Thierry Cheung, makes his feature film debut from an adaptation of Dean Bakopoulos’ celebrated first novel, Please Don’t Come Back from the MoonCheung and Bakopoulos co-wrote the screenplay.

The film opens tonight in Los Angeles, New York, select theatres and VOD on January 18th.

Alfonso Cuaron’s ROMA evoking Oscar and more

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Alfonso Cuaron’s latest diatribe of Mexican life, Roma, winner of the 74th Venice International Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, and favorite of the Chicago Film Critics Association, is on display at a theatre near you. While it is streaming on Netflix, its full flavor is best enjoyed in a theatrical experience where sounds abound, camera movements mesmerize, performances loom large and the mise-en-scene transports. I had the good fortune to view the cinematic treat at the new home of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF), the Riviera Theatre, recently renamed the Lynda and Bruce’s Rivera Theatre in honor of SBIFF philanthropic benefactors, Lynda Weinman and husband, Bruce Heavin.

 

 

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Set in Mexico City during the politically turbulent time of the 1970’s, Roma follows the life of a young servant, Celo, portrayed by first-time actress, Yalitza Aparicio. In homage to classical Italian Neo-Realism, Cuaron infuses Roma with elemental characteristics of Neo-Realism with his choice of a first-time, non-professional actress, a seemingly realistic setting and exhibits the film in black and white.

 

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Yet, Roma, is a highly crafted, highly orchestrated work of art. Cuaron makes every shot count, every moment a well-conceived and executed thought brought to fruition enticing the viewer to suspend disbelief. Cuaron then, and only then, deftly adds a shot to remind the viewer that Roma is a film. That’s how masterful Cuaron has become with his filmmaking craft.

 

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Photo courtesy of Netflix

 

And, that’s not to take anything away from the film’s narrative. Highly autobiographical, Cuaron draws scenes from his memory and manages to wrap them around his central character, Celo, then slowly allows the layers to melt away leaving the viewer with an exaltation that must be seen and experienced to be believed. Highly recommended on a cinematic screen!

One of the year’s best films….if not the very best.

Until next time, I’ll see you at the movies!

 

 

BECOMING ASTRID Opens in Los Angeles and New York

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Music Box Film’s Becoming Astrid, directed by acclaimed Danish filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen and inspired by events in Swedish author and literary icon (Pippi Longstocking) Astrid Lindgren’s formative years, is an engaging, heartfelt story of a teenaged Astrid Lindgren, played by Alba August in a breakthrough performance that delvers an emotionally riveting sojourn of the young writer’s early religious upbringing and her advent in becoming a storyteller of mythical proportions.

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After young Astrid accepts an internship at a local newspaper, she catches the eye of the married editor, Mr. Blomberg, portrayed by Henrik Rafaelsen, and soon becomes pregnant. Forced to leave her childhood home for Copenhagen to avoid the public outcry that could potentially remove her family from their stewardship of church land and to secretly give birth to a bastard child, Astrid perseveres learning difficult life lessons, eventually settling in Stockholm when her parents refuse her with her new son, Lars (Lasse). Reluctantly, Astrid leaves Lasse with a foster mother, Marie, portrayed by Trine Dyrholm, during her exiled time in Stockholm. Saving her money from a paltry secretary’s salary, Astrid visits young Lasse when she can. After Marie falls ill, Astrid uses her imagination and flair for storytelling to reconnect with her child. In spite of her struggles, Astrid emerges with a newfound courage that will form the foundation of a vast and beloved body of literary work.

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While Astrid Lindgren is mostly remembered for her Pippi Longstocking and Karlsson-on-the-Roof book series, her titles have been translated into 85 languages and published in over 100 countries. Selling approximately 165 million books worldwide, much of her writing was based on her childhood memories growing up in a small Swedish village. Outspoken on topics as diverse as the Vietnam War, children refugees, nuclear power, and urban planning, she always had children and their future at the center of her concerns. In 1958, Lindgren received the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, the top international award in children’s literature.

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Becoming Astrid is an excellent film technically as well as aesthetically. The version I viewed was in Swedish and Danish with English subtitles and came in with a run time of a smooth 123 minutes. In addition, the film contained well-rounded cinematography, seamless continuity editing, a strong narrative structure, stellar acting performances, a beautiful mise-en-scene, and an uplifting and complementary, non-diagetic, musical score. Becoming Astrid recently won the Audience Award for Best Foreign-Language Feature in October at the recent Chicago International Film Festival and is a highly recommended film!

Becoming Astrid opened November 23rd at the Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles and in New York at the Film Forum and will soon be followed by a national rollout.