Tag Archives: Liev Schreiber

FILM REVIEW: Chuck (Falardeau, 2016): USA

Viewed by Larry Gleeson at the Venice Film Festival.

Philippe Falardeau, the acclaimed director of The Good Lie and the Oscar nominated Monsieur Lazhar comes forth with a period piece of New Jersey in the 1970’s with a new film, Chuck, The Chuck Wepner Story, a drama, starring Liev Schreiber, known for his television role as Ray Donovan in the Showtime series “Ray Donovan,” and as Marty Baron in last year’s Oscar-winning Best Picture, Spotlight. Schreiber portrays boxer Chuck Wepner, the heavyweight champion of New Jersey, and often known more colorfully as the Bayonne Bleeder.

When he wasn’t in the ring, Wepner was a liquor salesman on the mean streets of New Jersey who managed to last 15 rounds in a professional boxing match with the greatest fighter of all-time – Muhammad Ali. Legendary boxing promoter Don King wanted a race fight and sought out a white fighter to get into the ring with the Champ, Muhammad Ali.

Wepner seemed to be a good choice to be Ali’s punching bag. Wepner had a reputation for being able to take a punch. And, true to King’s intention, Wepner took a beating. Not as though it was anything new for Wepner. In his ten years as a boxer he had his nose broken eight times, had 133 stitches, suffered fourteen losses and two knockouts. He was once pummeled so badly by Sonny Liston suffering both a broken nose and a broken cheekbone that required extensive stitching to heal.

Yet, Wepner had managed to put together a string of good fights and began to believe and have faith that his dream of getting a title shot was in reach. While not a great fighter, Wepner was known for his big heart, his ability to take a beating and come back for more. As a matter of record, Wepner became the first man to knock Ali off his feet inside the ring during a title fight. A furious Ali got back up and pulverized Wepner without mercy culminating in the fight ending 19 seconds into the 15th round. Sylvester Stallone based his Rocky franchise on Wepner’s life.

Director Falardeau exquisitely turns what might easily have been another boxing movie into a relationship piece illuminating Wepner’s most difficult moments outside the ring. He depicts the 1970’s much like Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver – seedy, wild women, drugs, booze – along with exceptional highs and disastrous lows.

After Rocky became the hit of 1976 garnering ten Oscar nominations and three wins for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing, Wepner began letting the world of New Jersey nightlife know he was the real life Rocky and to many he was. Jim Gaffigan plays Wepner’s best friend John Stoehr and loyal steward who is shown as mostly living vicariously through Chuck. A most telling scene occurs when Cinematographer Nicolas Bolduc takes the audience down inside the clubbing world of the honkytonk, disco era of the 1970’s with the fur coats, gold chains, silky rayon tops, sequined gowns, costume jewelry and the dance music of the Bee Gee’s. Here Wepner not only succumbs to the temptation of the drugs, booze and casual sex, he ultimately seems to confuse his own life with the screen life of Rocky Balboa while John looks on in giddy bewilderment.

Soon Wepner confronts Stallone about Rocky. Stallone, played by Morgan Spector, seems genuinely flattered and invites Wepner to audition for a real-life role in Rocky II. A drug infused, boozed up Wepner blows the audition as his life is now in a virulent downward spiral. Finally, after he shows up late and misses his 2nd grade daughter’s Parents Day, his wife, Phyllis, played by Elisabeth Moss calls it quits. Wepner knows he’s falling. Yet, he finds a glimpse of hope with a local bartender, Linda, played by Schreiber’s real-life wife, Naomi Watts. The two hit it off with some playful banter before the bottom drops out for Wepner and he’s sent to prison for drug trafficking. This becomes Stallone’s impetus for his 1989 film Lock Up. Wepner is called upon to be a consultant and is shown in shackles and prison garb. Yet, when he sees Stallone staging the story, he realizes his life is not Stallone’s version. This is the turning point of the film and for Chuck Wepner. He reconciles with his brother John, played sharply by Michael Rappaport and eventually marries Linda and the two spend the rest of their lives together in close relationship.

Chuck, full of rich costuming and fine cinematography, is at its core a period piece of the 1970’s including the role boxing played in the public domain. It is also a strong narrative of the trials and tribulations of Chuck Wepner’s life. Moreover, it’s a life affirming story as Wepner goes the distance and gets the girl in the end. Warmly recommended.

(Featured photo courtesy of ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema di Venezia)

IFC Films to release in theaters Toronto fave ‘The Bleeder’

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Karen Butler

TORONTO, Sept. 17 (UPI) — IFC Films says it has acquired The Bleeder, a boxing drama that screened at the Venice and Toronto film festivals.

Directed by Philippe Falardeau, and written by Jeff Feurzeig and Jerry Stahl, the Chuck Wepner biopic stars Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss and Naomi Watts.  It will get a North American theatrical release in the spring.

The Bleeder‘s journey could not have found a better conclusion. I’m thrilled that IFC Films acquired our film. I love the group’s philosophy and during the past days, their passion for The Bleeder was certainly contagious. I look forward to working with them in the near future,” Falardeau said in a statement.

“I am truly thrilled our film has found a home at IFC Films and Showtime. The team at IFC Films is pretty much leading the way in terms of effective and substantive theatrical releases right now,” added Schreiber. “As for Showtime, they’ve become family in the past five years, so to have them be a part of this movie just feels right. Such a great outcome.”

Showtime will be the pay television home for the movie after its theatrical release. The network is also where Schreiber’s series Ray Donovan airs.

(Source: http://www.upi.com)

Wrap Up: 73rd Venice International Film Festival Continues to Mesmerize


I attended my first Venice International Film Festival at the Cinema del Palazzo complex in Lido this year from the Pre-Opening Night event August 30th through Closing Night September 10th, 2016 as an accredited media entity.


The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world with a history dating to 1932. This year was the 73rd edition showing little signs of its age. Steeped in glamor and tradition, the festival remains a testament to the cinematic arts with its viewing venues and its programming.



Set in Lido with a plethora of screens each only a score or two steps away, these hallowed cinema grounds created a magical setting  adorned with cafes, raised walkways, and abundance of shade trees.




Last night and final view of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)


The real magic, however, took place inside the cinema!

Leading the way were the spell-binding performances of Lily-Rose Depp and Natalie Portman in Planetarium from Director Rebecca Zlotowski.


Rebecca Zlotowski
Planetarium Director, Rebecca Zlotowski. (Photo courtesy of ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema)


Award-winning, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, took home the Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize  for Best Film.  Nocturnal Animals captured my eye and imagination with it’s captivating story lines, exceptionally rich, mise-en-scene and wildly, powerful acting. Damien Chazelle and crew mesmerized audiences with their dazzling La La Land.  The lovely Emma Stone received the Best Actress Silver Lion Volpi Cup for her heartful, soul-revealing performance as Mia.





Director Lav Diaz, left, with Ang Babaeng Humayo film delegation at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of ASAC Images/Biennale Cinema)


This year’s Golden Lion for Best Film went to Lav Diaz for his painstaking drama, Ang Babaeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left), an epic story with a runtime of 226 minutes. The film follows one woman rediscovering her homeland after a 30 year stay in a correctional facility.

For a complete list of winners click here.


Other noteworthy films, not already mentioned, included: Paradise, a Russian Federation film, set amidst the Nazi WWII reign of terror (Director Andrei Konchalovsky garnered Silver Lion for Best Director for his Paradise efforts); Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, winner of the 5th Green Drop Award awarded by Green Cross Italy to films that bring attention to the values of ecology and sustainable development; Jackie, Pablo Larrain’s portrait of the iconic First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy (Noah Oppenheim won Best Screenplay for Jackie); and Orecchie, a Biennale College – Cinema Production, directed by Alessandro Aronadio and produced by Costanza Coldagelli.



A special note of thanks to this year’s ushers for their efforts in ensuring my safety and well-being at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. Until next year, Ciao’!

Ushers at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)



*Featured photo courtesy of Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee

Liev Schreiber to receive the Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award 2016

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 7.26.39 AMLa Biennale di Venezia and Persol are pleased to announce that American actor and director Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X Men Origins: Wolverine, Everything is Illuminated) is the recipient of the Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival (31 August – 10 September 2016).
The awards ceremony to confer the Persol Tribute to Visionary Talent Award 2016 to Liev Schreiber will take place on Friday September 2nd at 10 pm in the Sala Grande (Palazzo del Cinema, Lido di Venezia), on the occasion of the screening Out of Competition of the film The Bleeder (USA/Canada, 93’) directed by Philippe Falardeau, starring Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts. This biopic tells the true story of American boxer Chuck Wepner, who inspired the character of Rocky Balboa in the famous Rocky film series.

Liev Schreiber has participated in the Venice Film Festival several times in the past:
as the star last year of the Oscar-winning film Spotlight by Tom McCarthy, in 2012 with the opening film The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mira Nair, in 2004 with The Manchurian Candidate (2004) by Jonathan Demme; and as a director in 2005 with his debut film Everything is Illuminated, starring Elijah Wood. for which he won the Lanterna Magica Prize and the Biografilm Award.
The Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, made the following statement in regards to this award: “My admiration for Liev Schreiber is boundless. He has the ability to fully invest his talent both in starring roles in many independent films and as a costar in many mainstream Hollywood productions, as well as in a spectacular TV series like Ray Donovan which he produced and partially directed. The solid grounding he received as a Shakespearean actor when he was starting out continues to foster some unpredictable and complex performances, imbued with deep compassion. Each time he appears on screen it is as though the film’s tone has risen, making every appearance of his something unique and memorable. His essential qualities of sensitivity, intuition and intelligence can also be found in Everything is Illuminated, the one feature he has directed to date– and I hope it will not remain the only directorial effort by this singularly talented person.”
Chiara OccultiLuxottica Group Senior Vice President Brand and Communication Management, stated: “We are particularly proud to continue our collaboration with the Venice International Film Festival of the Biennale di Venezia, which has reached its twelfth consecutive edition this year. In 2016, the PERSOL TRIBUTE TO VISIONARY TALENT AWARD celebrates Liev Schreiber, a talent who reflects the personality of Persol to its fullest. We are proud that an artist such as Schreiber has accepted to be the recipient and to associate his talent with that of Persol.”
Liev Schreiber is considered one of the most talented actors in contemporary cinema, as well as a respected director and actor for the theatre. His biggest hits include the film Spotlight (2015) directed by Tom McCarthy, winner of the Oscar for Best Film, Salt (2010) by Phillip Noyce, X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) by Gavin Hood, Taking Woodstock (2009) by Ang Lee, Defiance (2008) by Edward Zwick, The Manchurian Candidate (2004) by Jonathan Demme, Kate & Leopold (2002) by James Mangold alongside Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, A Walk on the Moon (1999) by Tony Goldwyn, The Hurricane (1999) by Norman Jewison, RKO 281 (1999) by Benjamin Ross, Big Night (1996) by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci and the Scream trilogy (1996, 1997, 2000) directed by Wes Craven. In 2005 Schreiber directed Everything is Illuminated, with Elijah Wood. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, one of the most famous drama schools in the world and one of the oldest in Great Britain, and graduated in 1992 from the Yale School of Drama. He won a Tony Award in 2005 for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for Glengarry Glen Ross, and has received two additional nominations for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play for his starring roles in A View From the Bridge (2010) and Talk Radio (2007).
The 73rd Venice International Film Festival will be held on the Lido from August 31st to September 10th 2016, directed by Alberto Barbera and organized by the Biennale chaired by Paolo Baratta.