Here’s The Trailer For True Story

The Wesley Snipes comeback continues in the upcoming series True Story. This series will also feature Kevin Hart in a serious role. To be honest, I think Kevin Hart can handle a serious role. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m right.

True Story drops on November 24th, on Netflix. Here’s the trailer:

Film Review: True Story (dir by Rupert Goold)


In 2002, a man named Christian Longo was arrested in Mexico.  Longo, who was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, was charged with murdering his wife and his three children.  When he was arrested, he was using the name of Michael Finkel, a real-life travel writer for the New York Times.  When asked why he had been using Finkel’s name, Longo explained that he admired Finkel as a writer.

At the same time that Christian Longo was getting arrested, Michael Finkel was in the process of watching his career fall apart, the result of his having fabricated part of a story.  Fired from the New York Times, Finkel found himself unemployable.  When he discovered that Longo had been using his name, Finkel arranged to meet with him.  Not only was he curious as to why Longo wanted to be him but he also saw Longo as potentially being the story that could relaunch his career.

During their initial meeting, Longo told Finkel that he was a long-time admirer.  Longo agreed to tell Finkel his side of the story in exchange for writing lessons and Finkel’s promise to keep the details of their conversations a secret until after the trial.  Finkel agreed and soon, the two men became unlikely friends.

At first, Finkel believed that Longo was innocent.  But then, on the first day of the trial, Longo was asked how he pled to four charges of murder.   Longo entered two pleas of not guilty and two pleas of guilty and Finkel found himself forced to reexamine everything that he had previously believed about his new friend…

Amazingly enough, that’s a true story.  It’s also the subject matter of a recently released film called True Story.

In True Story, Michael Finkel is played by Jonah Hill and Christian Longo is played by James Franco.  Both Franco and Hill (who, despite having 3 Oscar nominations between them, remain oddly underrated actors) give the type of excellent performances that can elevate an entire film.  Interestingly enough, they’re both playing dramatic versions of their own typically comedic personas.  Hill plays up his trademark nerdy aggressiveness while Franco brings his own deliberately ambiguous persona to Christian Longo.  Just as James Franco enjoys leaving people guessing about who he really is, Longo seems to get a perverse pleasure out of keeping Finkel guessing about whether or not he really killed his family.  When Longo takes the stand in his own defense and gives his version of what happened on the night of the murders, he does it with a perverse gleam in his eye.  Longo may be facing the death penalty but mostly, he’s just enjoying being in the spotlight.

Hill and Franco are famous for being off-screen friends and they bring a lot of their own real-life chemistry to their shared scenes.  As played by Hill and Franco, Finkel and Longo develop a relationship that is nearly co-dependent.  Longo wishes that he could be a writer like Finkel.  Finkel wishes that he could be as personable and outwardly confident as Longo.  When Longo writes Finkel an 80-page letter that’s full of crude drawings, Finkel responds by taping each page to the wall of his office until he’s literally encircled by Longo’s words, much as how someone like me may have once been tempted to tape pictures of James Franco to the wall of her college dorm room.

With Franco and Hill both giving great performances, it’s a bit disappointing that the rest of the film isn’t always as strong.  Director Rupert Goold makes his feature film debut here and, at times, it feels as if he’s struggling to keep up with his actors.  There’s a lot of slow motion scenes of people walking down hallways and getting out of cars.  As well, too much of Finkel and Longo’s relationship is portrayed via montage.  We see countless rapidly-edited montages of Longo and Finkel speaking but, instead of actually hearing what the two of them are talking about, we instead listen to Marco Beltrami’s score.  Goold gets a lot of perfectly lit visuals but True Story is a film that could have used a rougher edge.

Even more unfortunate is that the film totally wastes Felicity Jones.  Playing Finkel’s wife, she doesn’t get to do much beyond looking pensive and concerned.  It’s a role that anyone could have played and it’s frustrating to watch because Felicity Jones is capable of doing so much more than just playing a worried wife.  Towards the end of the film, there’s a great scene where Longo and Jill talk on the phone and, at that moment, Felicity Jones finally gets to show some strength and personality.  James Franco, as well, seems to be relishing the chance to play up Longo’s manipulative side.  (It’s interesting to listen to the perversely flirtatious tone that he takes with her as opposed to the passive aggressive flattery that he uses on Finkel.)  The scene works wonders but then, the film makes the mistake of having Jill face Longo face-to-face and it falls flat precisely because Jill isn’t deep enough a character for us to feel any real satisfaction in watching her tell him off.

In the end, True Story is worth watching.  James Franco and Jonah Hill both give great performances.  If you’re a true crime fan like I am, you’ll find a lot of True Story to be intriguing.  Ultimately, if True Story is frustrating, it’s because it’s a good film that should have been great.

Trailer: True Story

Originally, we thought True Story was going to be released in December of 2014 so that it could possibly score Oscar nods for both Jonah Hill and my beloved James Franco.  However, the release was subsequently moved back to April of 2015.

Often times, it’s not a good sign when a release date is moved back but I still have high hopes for True Story.  The film’s plot — its true story — is a fascinating one.  Plus, it’s Jonah Hill and James Franco!

Did I mention I love James Franco?

Lisa’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions For June

Timothy Spall in Mr Turner

It’s time for me to update my way too early Oscar predictions!  Every month, based on a combination of buzz, reviews, gut feelings, and random guesses, I attempt to predict which films, directors, and performers will receive nominations in 2015!  For the June edition, I look at how my predictions have been effected and changed by the results of the Cannes Film Festival.

Thanks to Cannes, I’m a bit more sure about some of my predictions (in particular, Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner, and Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars).  But at the same time, the majority of these predictions remain the result of instinct and random guessing.

Click on the links to check out my predictions for March, April, and May!

And now, here are June’s predictions!

Best Picture




The Imitation Game


Mr. Turner



Based on its reception at Cannes, I’ve added Mr. Turner to the list of nominees.    I’ve also dropped Unbroken from the list, largely because of how aggressively it is currently being hyped by people who have yet to see it.    Traditionally, the more intensely an awards contender is hyped during the first half of the year, the more likely it is that the film itself is going to be end up being ignored once the actual nominations are announced.  (This is known as the Law of The Butler.)

Best Director

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman

Mike Leigh for Mr. Turner

Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher

Jean-Marc Vallee for Wild

I’ve dropped Angelina Jolie (Unbroken) and Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) and replaced them with Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner) and Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher).  I’m far more confident that Cannes winner Miller will receive a nomination than Leigh.

Best Actor

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Timothy Spall in Mr. Turner

The big addition here is Timothy Spall, who I am predicting will be nominated for his Cannes-winning performance in Mr. Turner.

Best Actress

Amy Adams in Big Eyes

Jessica Chastain in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Whitherspoon in Wild

Shailene Woodley in The Fault In Our Stars

Based on the charming but slight trailer for Magic In The Moonlight, I have removed Emma Stone from this list.  I was tempted to replace her with Hillary Swank but even the positive reviews of The Homesman were curiously muted.  So, I ended up going with Jessica Chastain’s performance in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby.  I also replaced Michelle Williams with Shailene Woodley who, much like Jennifer Lawrence over the past two years, is currently starring in both a commercially successful franchise film and a critically and commercially acclaimed drama.  That said, The Fault In Our Stars may have opened too early in the year to be a legitimate contender.

Best Supporting Actor

James Franco in True Story

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

Martin Sheen in Trash

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

I’ve moved Ralph Fiennes back up to Best Actor and I’ve replaced him with James Franco for True Story.  That might be wishful thinking on my part because everyone knows that I have a huge crush on James Franco.  However, the role — that of a real-life murderer who steals a reporter’s identity — sounds like both a chance of pace for Franco and the type of role that often leads to Oscar recognition.  (Just ask Steve Carell…)

Speaking of Steve Carell, he’s not the only actor getting awards-buzz for his performance in Foxcatcher.  Channing Tatum has been getting the best reviews of his career.  If he’s promoted for a supporting nod, Tatum is probably guaranteed a nomination (and, in all probability, that would doom the chances of Mark Ruffalo).  However, Tatum is apparently going to be promoted for best actor and his chances might be a bit more iffy in that race.

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Julianne Moore in Map To The Stars

Vanessa Redgrave in Foxcatcher

Kristen Scott Thomas in Suite francaise

Kristen Stewart in The Clouds of Sils Maria

Unlike a lot of film bloggers, I am not expecting Into the Woods to be a major Oscar contender.  (See The Law of The Butler above.)  While I was originally predicting that this film would manage to get Meryl Streep her annual nomination, I am now going to go out on a limb and predict that Meryl Streep will not be nominated for anything (other than maybe a Nobel Peace Prize) in 2015.  I’m also dropping both Viola Davis and Marcia Gay Harden from my list of predicted nominees and I’m replacing them with three actresses who received a lot of acclaim at Cannes: Julianne Moore for Map To The Stars, Vanessa Redgrave for Foxcatcher, and Kristen Stewart for The Clouds of Sils Maria.

Yes, I know what you’re saying — “Kristen Stewart!?”  Personally, if she’s as good as her reviews for The Clouds of Sils Maria seem to indicate, I think she will definitely be nominated.  I think it will actually help her case that she’s not exactly an acclaimed actress.  Look at it this way — people take it for granted that Meryl Streep is going to give a great performance, so much so that they’ll even make excuses for Meryl’s shrill turn in August: Osage County.  When someone like Kristen Stewart shows that she’s capable of more than Twilight, people notice and remember.  It’s those performances that inspire people to go, “Oh yeah, she actually can act!” that often lead to Oscar momentum.

And those are my predictions for June.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Kristen Stewart