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‘Sam & Kate’ Austin Film Festival Review: Dustin Hoffman & Son, Sissy Spacek & Daughter Make Indie Drama A Family Affair

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Working seven years to get his feature writing and directorial debut Sam & Kate just right, Darren Le Gallo not only has created a touching and engaging family drama but he also as managed to cast a couple of famous acting families to pull it off in style. Add to that that Le Gallo’s own wife, six-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams, adds to the familial aspect of the film by serving as one of a small village of executive producers involved in bringing it all to the screen.

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Having its world premiere tonight at the Austin Film Festival before opening exclusively in theaters (yay) in two weeks, Sam & Kate is almost a throwback to the kind of modest but authentic family drama that studios regularly churned out at one time in a galaxy far far away, but now almost never bite on. Fortunately, when you have certified cinematic legends like Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek signing on in significant roles, what independent distributor would want to resist? Fortunately, Vertical Entertainment didn’t, and in return has a compelling and richly rewarding movie on its hands that should, if there is any justice, bring in that hard-to-get older adult audience to the multiplex (though this will also play very well at home when it hits VOD and streaming services).

The bonus here is seeing both of its stars’ accomplished offspring believably taking on the title roles and hitting it out of the park on their own merits. Although on the surface this might sound like gimmick casting, it turns out to be anything but that, with stirring turns by both Dustin’s son Jake Hoffman (The Wolf of Wall Street, The Irishman) and Spacek’s daughter Schuyler Fisk (Orange County). They drive the story of two older kids now dealing with the sometimes heartbreaking task of helping an elderly parent, while trying to put their own lives back together against all odds.

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Sam (Jake Hoffman) has come back to the small town in which he grew up to move in with and watch over his elderly widowed Dad, Bill (Dustin Hoffman), a somewhat cantankerous and demanding man now lost at sea without his beloved wife. Sam works at a local chocolate factory, and continues his childhood obsession and talent of sketching people and places, a sign of unrealized potential as an artist. When he spots Kate (Fisk), the beautiful owner of a rare-books store, he becomes instantly smitten and asks her out, more than once, but with little luck until he basically wears her down to buy a cup of coffee. Her co-worker Beth (a fine Elizabeth Faith Ludlow) can’t understand why she keeps turning him away, but as we discover with all four of these main characters, there are events in their past keeping their guard up.

In a perhaps too convenient plot device, father and son Bill and Sam are brought to the rescue after Kate and mom Tina’s (Sissy Spacek) car ignition goes dead in the church parking lot after services all attended. This leads to a dinner invite and some unexpected sparks between Bill and Tina, even a tentative dance that doesn’t end well when Bill collapses after a few too many drinks. Meanwhile, come New Year’s Eve Sam convinces Kate to join him on a friends outing to the roller rink. Her resistance to his awkward pursuit starts cracking at the same time Bill works up the nerve to ask Tina to a restaurant date.

At this point the traumas of their past start colliding with the present, and the tone turns a bit dark with revelations that explain much — maybe too much. Fortunately, Le Gallo is blessed with this cast that knows how to play melodramatic situations with subtlety, even as it appears the emotional overload of it all could overwhelm the simple human story of one generation looking after another — and vice versa. Le Gallo knows it is that very human touch that is most important here, particularly in a touching sequence where Sam makes a huge mistake and accidentally misplaces a key memento of Kate’s.

This is the kind of film that it is best to just let unfold in front of you without too much information. It earns its tears (and a few laughs) honestly, and tells a story of family ties in an America that seems out of the past, but one that it is greatly missed.

Hoffman and Spacek are wonderful together, two pros still at the top of their game. The younger Hoffman, who looks remarkably like his father in his earlier years, sweetly plays Sam as an infectious but good-natured man wearing his heart and self-doubt on his sleeve. Fisk is just terrific here, and like her real-life mom seems incapable of a false note. She also is a talented musician, which becomes a key part of Kate’s own past, paying it off with a lovely rendition of an original song, “Life After,” that she also wrote. Among the supporting cast, Henry Thomas (yes, Elliot from E.T.) is fun as a guitar-strumming co-worker of Sam’s, and Elizabeth Becka makes the most of a few scenes as a church friend of Tina’s.

Vertical releases Sam & Kate in theaters on November 11. Check out my video review above with scenes from the film.

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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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