Monday, July 4, 2022

Bremen Town Musicians (1959) American release 1965

Another West German fairy tale film has four animals leaving their masters and going off to Bremen to become musicians.

Trippy telling of the classic tale has humans in animal masks playing the leads to mixed results. Certain to have played better in its day the film now has a certain quaint quality to it. At the same time the lessons of the original tale do come through. Guaranteed to warp your kids, this is the perfect film to watch with weird movie lovers.

The American dub features children's show host Paul Tripp (The Christmas That Almost Wasn't) telling the story which is perfectly fine.

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Rumpelstiltskin (1951)

One of a number of West German fairy tale films produced after the Second World War that ended up washing up on American shores years after their European runs more often than not in  a form bent by K Gordon Murray who bought them and numerous Mexican films for release as kiddie only screenings on weekends.(It been speculated the Murray's weekend kids shows were responsible for drug use and mental illness in the generation who saw them)

A more or less straight forward telling of the tale this film is going to seem way too leisurely paced for today's audiences  who are weened on wild and crazy action. That the film takes 80 minutes to spin out is going to have many people reaching for the remote.

One the other hand if you want a nostalgic film that doesn't Disney-fy  a fairy tale give it a shot.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Big Bad Wolf and Stinky the Skunk return in The Queens Swordsman aka The Happy Musketeers (1961)

This film in the series of films featuring the Big Bad Wolf and the skunk Stinky, is not only probably the best of the bunch but a good film on it's own terms.

For those unfamiliar with the Wolf and Stinky films, they first appeared in a telling of LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD where they were more comic relief then real threat, They then appeared in the various sequels (RED RIDING HOOD AND HER FRIENDS, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND TOM THUMB alternately LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD AND THE MONSTERS) where they were really the focus of the films. The series was released in the US by K Gordon Murray who dubbed them and had them play weekend kiddie engagements and on TV on Saturday and Sunday afternoon where they warped generations of children. I caught them on TV as a kid and was forever scarred enough to spend decade searching them out.

This time out Stinky and the Wolf are raising a child they found lost in the woods. Years have passed and as the infant has grown the pair realize that they need more than they can provide living in the woods so they go to town and end up as musketeers for the king and queen. They are instrumental in helping to save the kingdom from a take over.

Playing more like a historical swashbuckler with a skunk and Wolf in the lead than a kids film THE QUEEN'S SWORDSMAN is a really a grand adventure. Filled with action and intrigue this would have been a classic film had they simply removed the two costumed leads with real people.  Frankly this is rather an adult film since so many people actually die.  You could never release this film now because the family groups would have a fit.

The key to enjoying this film is getting past the fact that the film's leads are two people in ill fitting costumes who have been oddly dubbed. Its a weird experience watching everyone interact with these odd characters but if you've seen the other films in the series you know to just go with it simply because the films are so much fun.

The film like the others in the series are must sees for anyone who loves cinema.  They are truly wonderful pieces of crazy ass fantasy from an innocent time (hell, no one blinks when a live alligator is put in a bed with a little kid) that film lovers must see....

...sadly I don't think the films are available legally in the US.  I know Something Weird had released them on VHS years ago  but I believe at some point the K Gordon Murray estate put a stop to that and  they have been camping down on streaming releases. I could be wrong, but I know when I originally covered some of the films in 2011 the only way to get the films were the collectors market. And if memory serves I was told that some grand release of all of the films was coming by the estate who thought they could make a mint- except that the films had been out of circulation out side of Something Weird for thirty years so two generations of film fans had no idea what these films were. I haven't tried to chase down the status since then so that could all be wrong. (Please feel free to correct me in the comments)

You have to track this and the other films in the sequence down, get some friends, some drinks and popcorn and go crazy on a Saturday night.

Actually what I would love is for a film festival like New York to do is a small side bar of these whacked out films so they get back into the discussion....

Friday, July 1, 2022

Rubikon (2022)


In 2056 the world is heavily polluted. Most of the population lives in sealed domes. Orbiting the earth is Rubikon, a self sufficient space station. Right after a crew change clouds move across the globe essentially wiping everyone out. A debate then  breaks out between the crew as to whether they should stay or return to earth to see if there are survivors.

While there is some suspense and a few tense sequences, this is really a just a long discussion about the state of the world and what we should do if the world slides off the table ecologically. Things shift into discussions of class once survivors are contacted via radio.  This is a film that's all about the ideas.

To be honest I like the film but I didn't love it.  For all the efforts to make this film move the film is largely static. The film is all talk and little action. While the discussion is good and it holds our attention, there was a point where I started to disconnect because the balance of run time to lack of motion didn't work for me.

Additionally it doesn't help that the world the doesn't wholly work. The film set 30 years ahead but it there are turns that don't ring true because the technological changes are a bit too radical for 30 years on- not that we can't be there but that the scale of the building might be too much. Additionally I'm trying to figure out little turns like why they would hide an old radio in a wall. Its not fatal but it's the sort of thing that distracted me from the main plot.

Reservations aside if you want a heady discussion of where we are headed this is for you.

Sniper: White Raven (2022)


This is a timely film about the evils of Russian military intervention in Ukraine from not that long ago. It’s a stark reminder that Russia is not to be trusted, and that what happened earlier in 2022 is nothing new, and that we shouldn’t have been surprised since they did it before. The film is also a reminder that the Ukrainian people are not going to sit idly by and not fight back when provoked.

Sniper: White Raven is the true story of a college professor who wanted nothing more than to live peacefully with his wife. However in 2014 when the Russians last made an incursion into Ukraine they burned his home and killed his wife. Our pacifist hero then took up arms to get payback on the people who destroyed his life

To be perfectly honest I am really mixed on this film. While there is nothing wrong with the film once it gets going, getting to that point can be a bit of a overdone slog.

The problem with the film is entirely the problem with the script. The film is kind of loaded with cliches from the first frame with our hero and his wife looking like hippie throw backs to the 1960’s. They wear wool clothes, have long hair, live off the land and in harmony with the nature. It’s every hippy cliché come to life. It doesn’t matter if this is the way they were in real life, the handling in the film is so over the top that when the Russians attack I wasn’t moved to tears but laughter. I was snickering all the way through the training. It wasn’t until they get out into the field that the film stopped being silly and became a decent action film.

Where it all goes wrong is with the film’s insistence on being essentially a propaganda piece. The film very much wants to portray Russia as evil and the Ukrainian people as long suffering people who will never back down. As can be seen by recent events during the current war that would seem to be the case, but the presentation here is so loaded that I would be hard pressed to think that the propaganda masters of the last two wars would have gone to the lengths the filmmakers have to play our heartstrings. Its the same problem that the recent spate of Russian WW2 films that hit US shores prior to the invasion of the Ukraine suffered from.  The film vastly improves once the killer spirit of the Ukrainian people is released  to get vengeance but until then you’ll be rolling your eyes more than anything else.

Worth a look for action fans.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

THE FORGIVEN (2021) Tribeca 2022 opens Friday

 


Unhappy couple are traveling to a friend's house deep in the Moroccan desert  for a party when they run over a young man.  Taking the body to the house, they, along with their host, must figure out the best way to handle the situation.

Yet another tale of rich white European running roughshod over the local population is nothing we haven't seen before. This is a grand morality tale where we can pretty much fill in all of the blanks and plot how it's going to go.

The the problem here is entirely the screenplay which is been there and done that. We've seen god knows how many variations on this tale which is kind of just another warning that the rich get away (more or less) with everything because they have all the cash. There is nothing we haven't seen before, and its all made worse by characters that aren't fleshed out but sketched out via series of pick and choose cliches.

The cast headed by Ralph Fiennes (as the drunken driver), Jessica Chastain (as his annoyed wife), and Matt Smith (as the host) are all fine in roles that allow them to dress up in fancy clothes. The problem is none of them feel authentic and they are clearly all playing dress up.  They breath life in to shop worn materials they are given to work with, but you can't look too closely because you can see the fingerprints of generations of other actors playing similar roles.

While is watchable, FORGIVEN is less a compelling work than a film you put on while you are doing other things while waiting for your other programs to come on.

HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG (2022) opens tomorrow


One of the great films playing Tribeca this is a look at Leonard Cohen through the song Hallelujah. It took him seven years to finish it enough to record it and then it took a long path to discovery and rediscovery along a path that resulted in many versions (he wrote at least 180 verses) and many hits.

The audience I saw this with was crying. Yea its about a song, but its also about a man's quest to find his place in the universe. Its a moving tale of more than anyone thing. Its a film that reveals to us our lives as lived and sung by other people. Everyone saw themselves up there.

I was rocked to my core. 

This film spoke to me on a deeply personal and spiritual level and I came out loving the song and it many versions even more. It also made me very sad I could never have sat down and talked to Cohen about life and his journey.

Go see it.

One of 2022's best

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Four from Dances With Films

I was hoping to do full reviews of all these Dances With Films features but turns in the real world have reduced my ability to do so.


COVID19 GROUND ZERO
Based upon true stories this is the story of a hospital nurse and her boyfriend during the covid lock down. Well acted and earnest, the film suffered for me from covid burn out. I’ve seen too many covid films  over the last year and I’m at the point where I know that unless something is truly different I’m having a tough time taking the films on their own merits. While the film is definitely good I am uncomfortable saying how much due to the glut of films. If you are interested it is definitely worth a look.


1-800 HOT-NITE
A group of teenaged friends attempt to help one of their group get thrown in foster care after his parents are picked up in a drug raid. Interesting mix of comedy, drama, social commentary and coming of age is not like any other film out there. While there are definite signs that the film is trying to do way too much, it’s really nice to see any film being as ambitious as this one.  Worth a look for anyone who doesn’t  want a typical Hollywood film.


MY FRIEND TOMMY
Surprisingly charming documentary about friends trying to help one of their number find love and sex. Billed as a real world 40 Year Old Virgin this film defies expectations to be come a solid look at life and friendship. Doing more than just being about a guy trying to lose his virginity, the film instead becomes a weirdly insightful look at life and how we live it.   Recommended



REWILDING
NYC artist takes part in a program to help reentry for former inmates by  going into the wild and rock climbing.  What starts off as a look at a program hoping to help people by changing their perspective changes in the middle into an interesting look at matters of race in these helpful programs.  Because of the change this film becomes something more than just a feel good film. It’s a film that makes you really think about how you feel about such programs. Worth a look.

A DIRE STRAIT (2022) Dances With Films 2022

A Dire Strait (2022 short) - Trailer from Liang-Chun Lin on Vimeo.

A mother has to try and get around the Chinese tradition of keeping a new mother in bed for a month so she can build up her strength, fight depression and learn how to be a good mother. However in this modern world one mother has to sneak out at night to get the food and freedom she wants.

Wicked dark comedy shines a light on seeming out of date tradition that would seem to result in a deeper depression. I can’t imagine any mother I know willingly staying in bed for a month. They would probably slug anyone, including their own mothers who tried to keep them locked up.

The film itself is very funny. It walks that fine line between being funny and being kind of sad and manages never to trip.  I laughed even as I was horrified at what was going on on screen.

This film is wonderful mix of funny and heady- forcing us to consider if some of  our traditions are that helpful after all.

Recommended

DELUSIONE (2022) DANCES WITH FILMS 2022

Beautiful dance film has two women dancing in a bar.

I hate films like this because they are impossible to review. How do you write up a wordless dance? How I see the movement is not necessarily how you see it. How you react may not be how I react. Worse not being a dance student I don’t have the words to fake a review that sounds deep and meaningful.

On the other hand I love a film like this because it is a delight for the eye and ear. The motion of the dancers matched with the framing by the camera and music result in a film that is a visual feast. It is a look at two souls entwining and it is wonderful

Recommended.

El Carrito (2022) Dances With Films 2022


EL CARRITO
The life of a young woman from Latin America who makes money selling fruit from cart in New York. As someone who has had dealing with similar ladies over the year this film really hit home. It makes clear how hard their lives are. This is a super film, and one I would love to see expanded into a feature film, because there is so much here we should know. Recommended.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Asian Film Festival of Dallas announces films, guest programmers and more for big return to theaters

 Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) announces film lineup for 21st edition (July 21-24) 

Wenxiong Xing’s TOO COOL TO KILL is the Opening Night  Selection, Closing Night’s Selection will feature Roshan Sethi’s 7 DAYS highlighting a day-long celebration of female filmmakers

Highlights include Spotlight screenings of Park Hoon-Jung’s THE WITCH 2: THE OTHER ONE, Shô Miyake’s SMALL, SLOW BUT STEADY, and festival crowd-pleasers like Tom Huang’s DEALING WITH DAD and Mye Hoang’s CAT DADDIES

Dallas, TX (June 28, 2022) – The Asian Film Festival of Dallas (AFFD) announced the film lineup for this year’s 21st edition of the film festival. Taking place July 21-24, AFFD’s Opening Night selection is Wenxiong Xing’s Too Cool to Kill, the Closing Night selection is Roshan Sethi’s 7 Days, Spotlight screenings include Park Hoon-Jung’s The Witch 2: The Other One, and Shô Miyake’s Small, Slow but Steady.

AFFD will screen 16 feature films (12 Narrative, 4 Documentary), and 11 short films as the popular film festival makes a big return to theaters and in-person events after a two-year hiatus aside from a couple special events due to the pandemic, screening at the Angelika Film Center Dallas (5321 E. Mockingbird Lane, #230), and the Texas Theatre (231 Jefferson Blvd.)

This year’s edition of the Asian Film Festival of Dallas also will mark the first with new leadership, including Executive Director Thomas Schubert, and Lead Programmer Paul Theiss. New innovations with this edition of the film festival are led by the inclusion of Special Guest Programmers Justina Walford (Programming Director, Oxford Film Festival and the Billy the Kid Film Festival) and Frank Yan (Co-Director of Programming, CineCina), and include a tighter, more condensed festival schedule, a Saturday evening Red Carpet event for filmmakers and press, a Sunday day-long celebration of female filmmakers, and a reinvigorated outreach to their base audiences throughout the DFW area as the film festival looks to reconnect with physical screenings and events.

 New AFFD Executive Director Thomas Schubert, said, “Our board and staff are excited about the prospects of returning to our regular July timeslot and we are taking advantage of this edition of the film festival to look at what we do through a different lens and a fresh approach. AFFD has always been a signature event for Dallas film lovers, introducing exciting films and cinema to DFW, and this year we hope to shake up the event aspect of the film festival in our return, as well.”

 New Lead Programmer Paul Theiss added, “We made no assumptions with our programming this year, prioritizing films and filmmakers that would inspire audiences to come back for that big screen experience. To that end, adding a handful of films from our guest programmers will also add surprises and new perspectives to the schedule.”

 Opening Night at the Texas Theatre on Thursday, July 21 features Wenxiong Xing’s Chinese action comedy Too Cool to Kill. The Well Go USA release follows an aspiring comedian and actor who receives an invitation from a famous actress to play her leading man. However, the new gig soon lands him directly in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy.

As the film festival heads back to its traditional home location of the Angelika Film Center Dallas, Friday and Saturday’s Spotlight screenings again put forward the kind of films that AFFD has built its crowd-pleasing reputation on. Park Hoon-Jung’s The Witch 2: The Other One, another Well Go USA release, is the highly anticipated sequel to the popular Korean sci-fi action thriller The Witch: Subversion. This time, the story focuses on a mysterious girl who is the sole survivor of a bloody raid on the research facility behind the top-secret Witch Program. She and a pair of civilians try to stay one step ahead of assassins tasked with locating and silencing the girl. Saturday’s Spotlight selection is one of CineCina’s Frank Yan’s contributions to this year’s lineup. Shô Miyake’s Japanese drama Small, Slow but Steady is about a hearing-impaired woman whose dreams of becoming a professional boxer are threatened by the closure of her boxing club. The film has been described as a pandemic movie, a sports movie, and a mediation on the power of community—all rolled into one. The film premiered at the Berlin FF.

 Sunday’s screenings will highlight and celebrate female filmmakers, culminating in a screening of Roshan Shethi’s Spirit Award nominee 7 Days. Produced by prolific Dallas filmmaker Liz Cardenas, the relationship comedy/drama looks at Ravi and Rita, who find their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, turning into a never-ending experience together as they are forced to shelter in place due to the pandemic. The evening will conclude with Justina Walford’s contribution to AFFD’s programming: a late-night screening of Christine Chen’s mermaid revenge thriller, Erzulie. In the film, four besties reconnect at a backwater resort, but can’t shake their troubles until they summon a legendary mermaid goddess who is rumored to rule the local waters. After discovering the bloody aftermath from Erzulie “saving” them, not to mention the mermaid herself, the women race to cover their tracks and distance themselves from the creature they had summoned. 

Additional highlights include Tom Huang’s festival favorite dysfunctional family comedy Dealing With Dad about an Alpha mom/corporate manager tasked with going home to deal with her overbearing dad, who is now despondent and won’t leave the house. What she and her siblings discover is that their dad is actually, much more pleasant in his depressed state, so they wrestle with the decision to “fix” him or not. Mye Hoang’s popular documentary Cat Daddies will also make an encore DFW screening at the film festival. The film features portraits of "cat dads" from all over the country, including some who struggle to navigate the unprecedented events of 2020 with their little furry friends. Both filmmakers are expected to come to Dallas to attend their screenings. Sakamoto Yugo’s Japanese action horror thriller Yellow Dragon’s Village focuses on some college students who find themselves stranded in a strange village on the way to a summer camp. After being persuaded to stay overnight, they soon must figure out a way not to fall victim to the brutal killings that start occurring the next morning. Qiu Jiongjiong’s fantasy A New Old Play focuses on a man who was a leading clown-role actor in 20th-century Sichuan opera, as he reluctantly is escorted to the Ghost City. Throughout his trip, earthly scenes from the past creep into the mists of the Netherworld. The film won a Special Jury Prize at Locarno.

To purchase badges, tickets and for more information please go to: https://asianfilmdallas.com/.

 2022 Asian Film Festival of Dallas Film Festival Official Selections

 

GREEN GHOST AND THE MASTERS OF THE STONE (2022)


This superhero throwback with the well loved plot of an unlikely hero tasked with stopping the end of the world GREEN GHOST AND THE MASTERS OF THE STONE is a great deal of fun.

This is a low budget film with more heart and soul than most of the recent Marvel and DC super blockbusters. Caring more about characters than the block busters the film sucks us in and carries us a long on this improbable romp. And because the film is all about the characters we don’t mind the low budget. Sure we get some visual effects  but everything isn’t unreal and computer generated. Instead we get real people interacting and fighting with each other and not computer generated versions of each other.

Speaking of which because things are not computer enhanced the action sequences carry more weight. We lean in to things because that’s two people up on the screen battling it out. Why can't more films do it this way?

I had an absolute blast watching this movie. I mean I really did. I wished that I was curled up on the couch watching this with my dad. Actually I wish I had been lucky enough to have seen this when this played in theaters back in April. This film would have been such a blast in a room full of like minded people or in at drive-in.

Yea I know I haven’t been talking in detail about the plot and such, but that’s not that important and its similar to a thousand other, what's important is the joy the film brings to the hopeless movie or comic book addict looking for a rush of nostalgia.  I had a big stupid ass grin on face the whole time. I haven't been this delighted by a film on a pure popcorn level in a very long time and that includes recently seeing mega hit RRR.

Recommended for some glorious low budget action fun

ILYA MUROMETS (1956) aka Sword and the Dragon hits VOD today


I have a deep love of ILYA MUROMETS aka The Sword and the Dragon. I love the crazy fantasy of the story that has a human pyramid, vast armies, super strength, wind demons and of course a dragon. It’s a crazy ass story about a hero saving Mother Russia and his kidnapped from the Tugar hordes the likes of which you’ve never seen unless you’ve seen some of the other films from director Aleksandr Ptushko.

I love the film so much that I have various copies of the film from around the world. I even have a copy from Russia that was dubbed into English by having every line of dialog read by a person with a heavily accented voice in English. They give no inflection they simply read the lines as if they were reading a news report. 

This is the sort of grand fantasy they only made overseas and don’t make any more. It has an innocence that is lacking in today’s films. It’s the sort of film that makes me want to sit on a couch on a rainy day and get lost in it with a big bowl of popcorn and a soda.

Yea the film can be seen as so goofy that it’s been riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 and others. The trouble is it’s one of those films that’s actually better than you would think, especially if you see the film with out the trims made for TV time.

Odds are most of you have never seen this film uncut so unless you’ve seen the Russico restoration from almost 20 years ago years ago you’ve only  seen the scratchy version MST3K used.  Then again even if you've seen the Russico release  you really haven't seen it either. Trust me I know.

The reason I'm saying this is that Deaf Crocodile is releasing a version of the film that is beyond stunning. How good is the restoration? It looks like a film that was made today. I don't think the colors were ever this good nor the images this sharp. Watching the film I found I was seeing it for the first time and talking to the screen. This is hands down the best restoration of any film I've ever run across.

Seriously.

This is as good as film restoration gets. Its so good I am dying to see it on a big screen- and Deaf Crocodile has a digital print for anyone who want to screen it in their theater- so please someone program it.

This is a film you have to see, especially if you only know the jokey version of MST3K.

While the film has been out on Blu Ray for a few weeks now it's hitting VOD today so splurge and get it because you are going to fall so deeply in love with this film you're gonna buy the Blu Ray after you see. it.

Monday, June 27, 2022

LOVESEAT (2022) Dances With Films 2022


A man has an unnatural attachment to a love seat in the store where he works.

This is a wickedly funny little film. It takes a (not so) out there concept and turns it into a film that will make you smile. I was wary of the film, but I fell into it from the start.

That the film works, credit writer director Jerry Pylewho gets the tone dead nuts perfect.  Normally in short films like this the filmmakers will go for the goofy, or go for a heightened sense of silly, but --- doesn’t do that. Yea there is a brief bit of nuttiness right at the start, but after that he pulls it in and pulls us along

LOVESEATis a charmer and recommended

Ariela Rubin on Accepted (2021) which opens July 1

 


Accepted is a documentary about the school T.M. Landry, which has been around for 12 years and is located in Louisiana. It's an unconventional school; there are no textbooks, no homework, and there's no class schedule. The school is geared towards low income families. They are famous for having a 100% college acceptance, and over 30% go to Ivy League colleges. They have even become famous for viral videos showing students reactions as they find out they've been accepted into these colleges. 

As someone who was unfamiliar with this school, I thought the documentary was just going to be about the school and its students and the process of applying/getting into college. However, things weren't as they seemed, and the documentary took an interesting turn when The New York Times wrote a piece exposing the school for falsifying transcripts and doctoring college applications. They further went on to say that the school fostered fear and abuse. 

The documentary focuses on a handful of seniors at the school, their perspectives and experiences, and also shows us what their lives beyond school are like.  After watching this doc, I spent some time googling to find out more about the school, read articles that had come out, and updates since the film was made.  I also noticed there's half hour doc about the school on HULU, which might be interesting to watch and compare to this. I found the documentary interesting.  It really makes you think about the American school system and what some will go through.

Sam Kronish of Reel News Daily on VENGEANCE (2022) Tribeca 2022


If you haven’t checked in on B.J. Novak since The Office, you’ll be surprised by the pitch-black tone of his directorial film debut, Vengeance. There are great laughs aplenty here, but the film presents an overall bleak view of humanity as it relates to our ability to connect and communicate. This is a stellar premier film.

Novak pulls triple duty as the film’s writer, director, and star. He brings the perfect mix of smug arrogance and bewildered empathy to Ben Manalowitz, a New York writer (and aspiring podcaster) who is coasting through every moment. Ben’s catchphrase is “100 percent”, but the audience quickly comes to see that Ben isn’t really giving 100 percent to anything. His life is all surface, no depth. He believes he’s having deep conversations about his work and the meaning of society, but he’s looking at his phone the whole time. His relationships are nothing but informal hookups.

Then Ben gets a fateful call from West Texas – his former girlfriend (well, they had hooked up a few times), Abilene Shaw, has died of a drug overdose. Abilene’s family are under the impression that she and Ben were a real couple, and invite him to the funeral. Ben shows up in West Texas out of pity, but quickly decides to stay for more selfish reasons: Abilene’s family suspects foul play, and Ben can’t turn down a chance to tackle the “holy grail” of podcasting: a dead white girl. Ben’s editor mails him some fancy podcasting equipment faster than you can say “true crime”, and he’s off to discover the truth about Abilene (and hopefully make himself famous in the process.)

I’m still in awe of this supporting cast. Boyd Holbrook somehow manages to balance sincerity and absurdity as Ty, Abilene’s revenge-crazed brother. Could this be Ashton Kutcher’s best work since Dude, Where’s My Car? (don’t get it twisted, I mean that as a sincere compliment!) Kutcher’s Quintin Sellers is complex and layered. As a small-town record producer, Quintin is equally opportunistic and charismatic. Quintin provides a twisted country-fried contrast to Novak’s Ben, and their few scenes together are some of the strongest of the film. The female characters are unfortunately more thinly written, and mostly function to help us better understand the men.

A film like this doesn’t work without a rock-solid script, and this one delivers. Good comedy writing ensures that the pace of the film is maintained; great comedy writing is concerned with showing us deeper truths about character that may produce a smile, but also a sting. The soundtrack is also self-aware – I’ve never laughed so hard at a Lana Del Rey song.

Vengeance is a dual threat – a legitimately funny comedy that also lands sincere dramatic moments. It left me excited for whatever Novak has coming next (hopefully a podcast.)

For more from Sam go to his regular home REEL NEWS DAILY 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily on two different Tribeca films about parenting and identity ‘The Drop’ & ‘Don’t Make Me Go’


THE DROP

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Adina Smith‘s work. Midnight Swim, Buster’s Mal Heart, and most recently Birds of Paradise are an eclectic group of films that show her imagination and vision are one of a kind. Her latest Tribeca 2022 film is no exception. In The Drop, Lex and Mani are a vivacious married couple trying to get pregnant. Lex does the unthinkable after they arrive at a friend’s destination wedding. She allows the bride’s infant daughter to slip from her grip. The fallout from this moment sends this group of close friends into a tailspin of pretentiousness, ego, judgment, confessions, and chaos. The Drop is a proper hard R-rated adult comedy. The laughs are endless. Huge quirky personalities clash in a way that doesn’t let anyone off the hook. The film centers on parenting styles, communication, and the facade we all put up to survive. Smith and co-writer Josh Leonard skewer Millenial culture in the most brilliant ways possible. Anna Konkle and Jermaine Fowle lead this ensemble cast of your dreams. There is not a weak link in the bunch. The Drop is a crowd pleaser you’ll want to see with your closest friends. Then you can all sit around and decide which asshole character most represents you. You’re welcome.


DON’T MAKE ME GO

Hannah Marks is a damn gem. Her films have insight and heart for days. Her latest Tribeca 2022 film, Don’t Make Me Go, takes on a father-daughter relationship that will shake even the hardest of hearts. John Cho and Mia Isaac play Max and Wally. When Max discovers that his headaches are a brain tumor, he takes a reluctant Wally on a road trip to his college reunion. The journey serves a dual purpose; spending time with Wally and reconnecting with his ex-wife and Wally’s estranged mother. The screenplay by Vera Herbert is overflowing with coming-of-age moments, humor, and grounded conversations about mortality. It manages to be a story of redemption through creative means. We watch Wally make one bratty and irresponsible decision after another, yet her actions are ceaselessly relatable on the journey of finding your identity. Max is chasing the clock and lies to Wally for most of the film. With the purest intentions and all the love and emotional sacrifice a parent can muster, Don’t Make Me Go is a beautiful story about vulnerability and living life to the fullest every day.


For mor from Liz go to her regular home at REEL NEWS DAILY

Liz Whittemore of Reel News Daily investigates the CORNER OFFICE (2022) Tribeca 2022


A Kafkaesque story about a corporate worker bee who prides himself on productivity and efficiency discovers an office no one else seems to notice. Jon Hamm plays Orson, a man who feels misunderstood and underestimated. As he isolates himself from his co-workers due to his holier-than-thou inner monologue, which Hamm provides with his iconic tone of voice, he finds respite in a wood-paneled, impeccably decorated, midcentury modern office space. Just down the hall, between the elevator and the restroom, lies a door to that room. Orson’s visits to the office slowly increase. The problem is that when he does, everyone around him sees something altogether different. They see Orson staring off into space, never moving, as if in a trance.

The audience must decern whether Orson is quite well. Ted Kupper‘s adaptation of Jonas Karlsson‘s short story allows us to go on the emotional journey from Hamm’s standpoint. I use the term “emotional” loosely, as Orson is almost robotic and socially inept. Hamm gives a performance that will undoubtedly be buzzing through awards season. It’s a departure from his sexy manwhore persona from Mad Men, even if Orson’s coveted space would have been Don Draper’s wet dream. It’s no coincidence that the building is a monstrous and overbearing piece of architecture that literally disappears into the clouds and that the company name is “The Authority.” We’re not exactly sure what Orson’s job title is, but when inspiration hits him inside “The room,” he impresses the higher-ups, including the never-seen “EVP.”

Despite the praise, Orson’s co-workers and bosses cannot emotionally manage his request to work in the room. The film begs the larger question about neurodivergence in the world. On a personal note, as a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, Corner Office can connect with audiences for innumerable reasons, whether intended or not. Corner Office is a unique entry into the mental health conversation. The script strings the audience along until the very end. It was, without hesitation, one of my favorite films from Tribeca 2022.


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LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER (2022) Tribeca 2022

I have been trying to write up LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER since I first saw it, but I couldn’t get anything that did the film justice.  The film is a recounting of the struggle of the people of Lowndes County in Alabama to exercise their right to vote. Despite the fact they were allowed to vote, and outnumbered the whites 4 to 1,  the African American population never bothered try to register to vote since they didn’t want visits from the Klan and other small minded people in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until returning native returned to the county that things began to change. Suddenly people started to band together and make an effort to get registered enmass. That is a simplistic telling of the story, but it’s enough to get you going.

This film is a stunner. The film is a clear indication of the power of groups to effect change. The trick is always not to give up and to vote every chance you get. If you want to know why powerful people want to keep people stupid and away from the polls this film will show you

The power of the story is not in big names but in small people who refused to back down. Yes Stokley Carmichael wanders through the tale, he is not really the focus. The focus is on the people o Lowndes County. This was there fight and they fought it to the bitter end. It’s because  of them that the idea of Black Power and the Black Panthers came into being (though not a in the form we think of today)

This is a great film. It tells the story of a piece of history we all need to know.

Highly
recommended