Screened Out – Live by Night

By : Stephen Miller
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Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana, Brendan Gleeson

It’s difficult to imagine anyone would want to watch Live by Night twice. In the middle, I found I didn’t want to watch it even once. I checked my watch four times.

Oh, sure, the sepia tones were pretty for a little while. Then all the tans started to remind me of tepid, badly cooked oatmeal – lumpy and dull, like this flick.

By dull, I mean this is a stereotypical 1930s crime film, abetted by being ponderous and meandering. The characters are also boringly beige; the lead character is completely indecipherable. The only good news is that it’s easy to nitpick minor flaws while you’re waiting for something interesting to happen.

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Screened Out – Secret in Their Eyes

By : Stephen Miller
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Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Nicole Kidman

Good psychological thrillers are extremely difficult and rare.

They need great acting, sure, and this one has that. They also have to exist in that thin area between thrilling and plausible, between surprising and unbelievable.

There are some illuminating moments in Secret in Their Eyes – most of them are provided by Roberts. Then there are many scenes that veer into drippy melodrama and even farfetched camp. The film ends up feeling like a Dennis Lehane novel (Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River) kidnapped by over-the-top director Pedro Almodóvar (The Skin I Live In and Bad Education). Your love of Secret will depend on how you feel about mashing these disparate styles together.

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Overheard in Tampa Bay: Janet Jackson, a Ybor City impostor and Santa’s little helpers

By : Anonymous
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Janet-Concert-T-shirt-Tampa
Janet Jackson came to Tampa and all she got was this T-shirt, and she could not have been more excited about it. While performing on stage at the Amalie Arena during her “Unbreakable World Tour,” a fan threw a T-shirt on stage. Now gifts being thrown on stage by adoring fans are nothing new to Ms. Jackson, but this one left her visibly giddy as she opened up the shirt, and it read Penny-Charlene-Cleo-Justice, those being the first names of her iconic characters from Good Times, Diff’rent Strokes, Fame and Poetic Justice. The T-shirt was designed by St. Petersburg artist Chad Mize, who was unable to attend the concert, and was tossed on stage by his friend Ryan Prado. The T-shirt design, which lists four similar people, places or things, is becoming quite iconic itself with the World Tour shirt (Paris-London-Tokyo-St. Pete) being all the rage last year. The design even made appearances at this year’s TIGLFF events with the Sundance-Cannes-Toronto-TIGLFF t-shirts. HIGH FASHION!

Can the real Ybor City please stand up?
Hollywood is coming to Ybor… well, sort of. The rights to Tampa Bay writer Dennis Lehane’s novel, Live by Night, were bought by Oscar-winning writer/director/actor/producer/Batman Ben Affleck who will turn it into his next project. The story is set in Ybor City during the 1920s and ‘30s and is about a Boston thief’s rise to power as a Gulf Coast rum runner. Don’t dust off those acting chops just yet though my local performers. While the story takes place in the bay area, the lack of state tax incentives for movie productions has caused Mr. Affleck to head north some 270 miles to Brunswick, Georgia where he is building a fake Ybor City for the film. If you build it, they will come and come he will. The set designers have been busy building since early September preparing for Batman Ben’s arrival to begin shooting the first week of November. Sorry real Ybor and thanks Obama… oops, we mean thanks Rick Scott!

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Screened Out – The Drop

By : Stephen Miller
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Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace

Do you long for an autumnal chill? You may find something cold to drink with The Drop. This gritty, violent, inner-city thriller may have some faults – mostly a boring title and a sluggish first act – but the performances, especially Hardy’s tantalizing role, deliver a short crime drama worth a watch.

Novelist Dennis Lehane wrote the script; he also provided the source material for Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. This brief film is of the same brew as those flicks. The Drop is based on a short story, “Animal Rescue,” also be Lehane.

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