Wednesday, November 20, 2019

She Never Died (2019) Blood in the Snow 2019

SHE NEVER DIED is one of the best genre films of the year, one of the best films period for 2019 and is also one of my absolute favorite films of 2019. I love this film so much that I am dying for more people to see it so I can discuss its wonders with them.

Th plot is simple: a woman who lives on the street devours the bad guys who wander skid row. She is immortal she and weary of her life. Along the way she meets a cop who suspects there is something about her and she befriends a young woman who had been grabbed by some bad men. I'll leave the rest for you to find out.

Stunning genre film is do damn good on every level that I kept thinking "it can't be this good can it?". I  also kept waiting for it to completely fall apart but it never did, it just went from start to finish with a drive unmatched in most similar films. This film just goes and grows and gets better with each new revelation.

All hail director Audrey Cummings and writer Jason Krawczyk for crafting one hell of a tale. It is a balls to the wall thrill ride that just goes, all the while making you ponder your own existence. Its rare that films this fun are this thoughtful

Seemingly connected to Krawczyk's earlier HE NEVER DIED (which I haven't seen and which appears to have a jokier tone) SHE NEVER DIED stands completely on it's own. You don't need to have seen the earlier film (I only discovered it after the fact), though since I am in love with SHE I am definitely interested in the earlier film...and in the teased sequel.

As good as the writing and direction are the real story here is Olunike Adeliyi who gives one of the great performances of the year. Because of her full bodied performance we have the creation of of one of the great screen heroes. Forget that she is a woman she is just a kick as character and would probably give any of the comic sourced heroes, male or female a run for their money. It is a stunning performance where you can literally feel the weight of millennia and then some on her. Once we know who she is you realize she literally has seen it all and is done with it. With her performance she wrecks the notion of  the joys of living forever. Clearly it isn't skittles and beer. Never mind that Oscar never notices small scale genre films, Adeliyi is so quietly understated that the true magic of what she is doing most of the time is going to be completely missed by most people. Olunike Adeliyi has given a performance for the ages and created one of the great screen characters that I have ever seen. I ache to know what both her character and the actress are going to do next.

A must see not only at Blood in the Snow but where ever you can see it.

For tickets or more information on the Blood in the Snow screening go here.

The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful

Go might look like a board game, but it can be a full-contact sport in Korea. It has a lot to do with the wagering. Sometimes the stakes are even life and death. That suits a mysterious young Go prodigy just fine. He intends to serve up some revenge as cold and hard as Go stones in Lee Khan’s “spin-off” sequel, The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful, which opens this Friday in New York.

Young Gui-su showed an early aptitude for Go and an early thirst for vengeance after Go master Hwang Duk-yong takes advantage of his naïve older sister, driving her to suicide. All alone in the world, Gui-su has the mostly good fortune to fall in with Hur Il-do, a Go teacher and hustler, somewhat like Fast Eddie Felsen in The Color of Money. They start making the rounds, but the thuggish Busan Weed turns out to be a very poor loser. That leads to more grievances for Gui-su to settle later.

After several years of secluded study, the twentysomething Gui-su emerges for his payback. The main event will be Hwang, but Gui-su will warm up on everyone who ever wronged Hur. He will also make a little money in the process with the help of “Mr. Turd,” his bankroller and comic relief. Meanwhile, the mysterious “Loner” stalks Gui-su, hoping to extract his own vengeance for sins Gui-su committed with Hur.

In a way, The Divine Move franchise is like the Tazza series for the game of Go, right down to the supposedly-in-the-same-world-but-really-only-thematically-related sequels. The Wrathful is also like the latest Tazza film in that it is surprisingly violent and hard-bitten, especially for a film revolving around such a cerebral game. Regardless, it is as gripping as a shark bite and nearly as lethal.

As Gui-su, Kwon Sang-woo broods like a champion. He is quiet on the outside, but violent on the inside. At times, you can almost see the steam coming out of his ears. He is backed by quite a colorful supporting cast, especially Heo Sung-tae and Won Hyun-joon, who inhale the scenery as Hur’s old rivals, Busan Weed and the sinister “Shaman.”

In some ways, Divine 2 is a bit predictable, because it follows the general narrative path of underdog sports movies. However, Lee plays up the action and thriller elements, including more than one literal game to the death. It all makes for quite a breakneck ride. Frankly, this is another fine example of the Korean film industry’s continuing comparative advantage in the action and suspense genres. Highly recommended for fans of gambling and payback thrillers, The Divine Move 2: The Wrathful opens this Friday (11/22) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Shooting the Mafia opens Friday

This is a modified version of my review which originally ran during the Fantasia Festival this past July. For those that don't know Fantasia is a genre fest specializing in horror science fiction and way out action films from around the world. It rarely runs films that aren't genre related... except this time they did... With SHOOTING THE MAFIA opening Friday I'm reposting my review with some slight modifications.

When I ask “what is SHOOTING THE MAFIA doing at Fantasia?” I don’t mean it as a slap. It is more a question of what is a film that belongs at festivals such as New York, Toronto or DOC NYC doing at a genre festival? I’ll be hard pressed to know but I really don’t care because it put the film on my radar and yours as well.

The film is a portrait of photographer Letizia Battaglia who over the last several decades has chronicled life in and around her town in Italy and whose photos became a means of chronicling the death and destruction that the Mafia was doing to all levels of society. A fighter for social justice she became a recognizable presence at various protests with her bright red hair.

Transcending being just a film about a photographer and her work, SHOOTING THE MAFIA is in reality a history of Italy during the life and career of Letizia Battaglia. Through her photographs and her memories we are walked through history for the last three or four decades. Its an eye opening journey that makes this a truly great film.

If you are in the mood for something that might possibly be in the mix for the Oscar give the film a try.


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Klaus (2019)

Sergio Pablos‘ KLAUS is a masterpiece. A heart warming holiday animated film that other than being about Santa Claus is ultimately not a holiday film at all but a wonderful exploration of how simple kindness and goodness can change the world. It is a vital message that we need in todays world where stupid rich people bully their way into controlling the world.

The film follows Jesper a cadet at the postal academy. His father is the big wig running the Postal Service and as such the family is rich and well off. Jesper wants to flunk out so he can live a life of ease. His father has other plans and sends him to a remote island as far north as you can go. He is to process 6000 letters in a year or else he’ll be cut off. Arriving there he find the whole place broken down and at war with itself. Things are so bad the school has been turned into a fish shop because the townsfolk won’t send their kids to school lest they meet people they don’t like. Forget the idea of sending letters. When a small boy loses a drawing he made, Jesper wants him to pay a postage fee to get it back…but things take a decidedly odd turn when the picture is seen by a woodsman named Klaus who wants to give the sad child a gift. This sets in motion the beginnings of Klaus’ new calling.

Warm witty and charming this is a big hug of a film. A glorious portrait of how one act of kindness, either intentional or unintentional can change everything. It is an old school tale told with modern smart ass characters (Norm MacDonald is very funny, as are most of the knowing one liners) but none of the modern knack of forcing schmaltz and goodness on the story. Everything that happened is genuinely earned, particularly Jesper‘s change from awful terrible self-centered twit to nice guy that everyone loves.

Beautifully hand animated,, this is a film where the art and animation bleeds love and caring off the screen. This isn’t the typical computer generated 3D characters that wander through most films today. Rather this is throw back to classic Disney and Fleischer and we are all the better for it. There is a warmth to everything that the hand crafting carried over from it’s creators that is normally lost when simply deduced to ones and zeros. Best of all there is a style that is all Klaus. We are no on Disney-land or Imagine or Blue Sky or even Ghibli. Because we haven’t really seen a feature that has this style before we can’t assume that we know what’s going to happen-it’s all new to us.

I have not been able to stop talking about Klaus since I saw it. From almost the first frame I was enthralled. I smiled my way through the film- pacing to get misty depending upon the sequence. This is a glorious film that everyone needs to see if only in that it will make us feel good and much less cynical.

Highly recommended- one of the best of 2019-lets hope this gets an Oscar nomination.

See it on Netflix

Varda by Agnes (2019) opens Friday

Agnes Varda’s final film is a bittersweet joy. A lovely explanation of a filmmaker and her entire body of work, it is a grand summing up a creative life. While it is glorious celebration of the world changing work of one person there is a sadness in that there will be no more wonders from Ms Varda.

According to Rosalie Varda, Anges’s daughter and collaborator the project was started in 2015 as a way to record the “masterclasses” that Agnes was holding around the world. Agnes hated the term masterclass, preferring the term conversation. She also didn’t like the way the straight recording of the conversations went and the project stalled as they pair tried to sort out a way to make the film work. Eventually bringing in collaborators the problem was solved and what we are left with is one part lecture, and several trips into the mind of Agnes’s mind.

Beginning as a lecture Varda by Agnes starts somewhere in the middle of Varda’s film work and then jumps around all over the place, not randomly but in what is a wonderful stream of consciousness that is exactly like what happens when you talk to a prolific filmmaker and artist and have the discussion of one thing lead into another. The discussion just seems to happen right before our eyes (despite Varda sometimes reading from notes) as if we are curled up in a beach chair next to her shooting the breeze.

Watching the film I was struck by how much I really need to go back and revisit her work. Partly because what Ms Varda says about the films, but mostly because seeing the clips I realized I have been neglecting some old friends. That’s what I love about the film, it not only reminds us of the wonders she produced but also gave us a key to discover new things I never saw in them before. It is, as Hubert Vigilla said to me when the film ended, a reminder of how many of her films I haven’t seen.

Odds are when the film ends you are going to be left feeling a bit strange. As good as this film is there is an odd feeling one gets when it fades to black (there are no end credits, its all at the start) in that it doesn’t feel like a bold final statement. This is a coda to a great life. The film feels a last coffee with a friend before they go off, it is not a final blow out (that would be FACES PLACES). As the film ended and I knew there was nothing new coming I felt totally content that Varda got to sum up. At the same time I wish that she had left with a flourish instead of a (literal) slow fade.

On the other hand when the project was started no one knew that this would be her last film. Additionally whatever she had to say she left in an almost seventy year long body of work, she owes nothing to anyone. In a weird way the film is like an old school Peter Gabriel concert when he would end with Biko and then walk off leaving the audience to pick up where he left off and carry on the fight.

My feelings at the end discounted, Varda By Agnes is a great film. It is the sort of film every artist would want as a final one- a taking stock of everything they had done which results in the realization that it is still vibrant and alive and informing art and culture even after their passing. (Perhaps this being the final work adds to its greatness)

Highly recommended, this film is a must for fans of Agnes Varda and film in general

A brief piece on Screwdriver (2018) Other Israel Film festival 2019

After Zaid's friend is killed by an Israeli sniper, he and his friends go out looking for revenge. When one of the friends kills a man he thinks is Israeli, the friends flee but Zaid is caught and thrown into prison. Getting out fifteen years later Zaid struggles to come to terms with the sudden change, with friends who have moved on and family who don't seem to understand why he is so with drawn.

I am mixed concerning SCREWDRIVER. While it is in no way  a bad film it never fully connected to me on an emotional level. To be certain this film is an excellent and heady discussion of what being in solitary for the better part of a decade and a half will do to you, however the fact that the time in prison made Zaid withdrawn and disconnected made him hard to connect to emotionally. Intellectually I completely understand why it was done, but at the same time it kept me distant to the point I like the film rather than love it.

Regardless it is worth a look when it plays November 21 at the Other Israel Film Festival.

The final round of DOC NYC Capsules

As time at DOC NYC came to a close I realized that I was not going to finish long reviews for a number of titles. Realizing that I either had to let them go or aim to get them done by January I decided to simply do capsule reviews. I know I'll be revisiting some of these down the road.

Director Archana Phadke turns her camera on herself and her family during the run up to her brother's wedding. A nicely unguarded look at complex family that will echo your own.

Portrait of Bloodroot, a vegetarian restaurant and bookstore and the women who started it in the 1970's. Charming and enjoyable film is likely to make you hungry as you watch the lat 40 years of history pass by.

The history of the AIDS epidemic and the damaging tale of Patient Zero who supposedly infected the world. Good but unremarkable.

If you love baseball you'll love this story of the Japanese high school baseball championship. For me this was a great deal of fun that explains why baseball means so much to so many.

Director Julia Ivanova revisits the families of same sex couples that she profiled ten years earlier. Okay follow up will love or like depending on your attachment to the earlier film. I'm not sure this really was needed.

A look at several teens at Pahokee High School in Florida who are getting ready to go out into the world. Not bad but I've seen numerous variations on this film (following high school kids in the south) over the last few years. If you haven't you'll like it more.

I don't have a lot to say but this portrait of Nardie White and his River City Drum Corps is very good. Look for this one at a festival near you

Chris Flanagan gets a random reggae record in a discount bin and becomes obsessed with tracking down the people behind it. This is a great deal of fun.

Former workers at Ursus tractor factory help create symphony using the machines and tools left behind. A sweet small gem of a film

Portrait of the noted Brooklyn based author and his ideas. An interesting film that will play more or less well depending upon your feeling toward the man and his ideas. Personally I liked but didn't love the film which is much to  hagiograhic for my tastes.

Monday, November 18, 2019

RELENTLESS INVENTION: NEW KOREAN CINEMA, 1996–2003 starts Friday at Lincoln Center

Staring Friday Film at Lincoln Center is going Korean film crazy and running a huge slate of classic Korean films from the last 3 decades that helped change the world’s opinion of Korean films. They are running early works by directors Bong Joon Ho,Hong Sang Soo, Ryoo Seung-wan,Kim Jee-woon, Park Chan-wook, E J-yong and other who are now the names everyone think of producing some of the best films in the world in a series called RELENTLESS INVENTION: NEW KOREAN CINEMA, 1996–2003 .

The selections are incredible- then again how could they not be, they were made by the guys at Subway Cinema who are among the best experts on Asian films anywhere in the world. I don’t think there is a bad film among their choices…. and I should know having seen pretty much everyone of them- so when I say go buy tickets and see as many as you can. Even if you have seen the films so see them again since this is a rare chance to see them on a big screen , which is what (most of the Unseen Film crew is planning on doing.)

Now a confession - I was planning on posting links to all the films we've reviewed over the years- the problem is that the Unseen Films search engine is not working the way it should. Because we reviewed the films all through the last decade and because I've posted all sorts pieces on fests and series where the films have played I'm having trouble pulling them up. However since I want you know what is good I'm giving you a list of the films (I'm pretty sure) we've reviewed. All are recommended. (I will post the links as I find them)

Attack The Gas Station
Barking Dogs Never Bite
Christmas in August
Die Bad
Foul King
Ginko Bed
Joint Security Area
Memories of Murder
My Sassy Girl
Nowhere to hide
Quiet Family
Resurrection of the Little Match Girl
Save The Green Planet
Sympathy For Mr Vengeance
Take Care of My Cat
Untold Scandal

For tickets and more information go here.

BC Wallin on THE RABBI GOES WEST (2019) DOC NYC 2019

Rabbi Chaim Bruk goes from door to door, offering to put up mezuzahs for the Jews living in the community of Bozeman, Montana. “I’m God’s salesman,” the Chabad rabbi proudly states. Rabbi Chaim, as the members of his community and the surrounding Montana areas refer to him, moved to Bozeman with the mission of opening up a Chabad center offering prayer services, holiday events, and scotch and sushi, when the occarion calls for it. He also aimed to put up 2,000 mezuzahs on Jewish doorposts.

The old joke goes something like, “If a Jew washed up on a deserted island, he’d build three shuls (synagogues): the one he attends, the one he doesn’t, and the one he’d never go to.” Jewish history is rife with disagreements, conflicting traditions, and schisms, as the matter of interepreting Jewish laws and scripture came into conflict with the modern problems and personal discomforts, among other reasons. Without unpacking all the branches and sects and differing viewpoints, suffice it to say that Rabbi Chaim was not the first rabbi to Montana, and his efforts are not beloved by all.

The Rabbi Goes West, as described in the project’s Kickstarter, is “a documentary about religious diversity,” giving voices to Conservative, Reform, and retired rabbis of Montana who take issue with Rabbi Chaim’s style. Co-directors Gerald Peary and Amy Geller give each rabbi their platform to speak about their concerns, arguments, and rebuttals. As is often found in Talmudic discourse, there’s no conclusion definitively determined.

Peary and Geller certainly found engaging personalities, a collection of varyingly entertaining rabbis who all have strong opinions they don’t mind being blunt about. Rabbi Chaim won’t attend Jewish coalition events that don’t keep to Jewish traditions — “99% Kosher is 100% not Kosher” — while Conservative Rabbi Ed Stafman doesn’t want his congregants having their mezuzahs put up by Rabbi Chaim.

Tensions flare and every side sets clear cases in the arguments of Judaism’s definition and each rabbi’s role, but while the documentary seems to ratchet up drama, there’s never really a breaking point. While there is a significant episode involving a series of anti-Semitic cyberterrorism and the communal responses that came after, The Rabbi Goes West is a story told in the past tense, offering reflections and post-scripts when its very nature begs the question of what’s going to happen next. For better or worse, the documentary leaves its viewers hoping for more.

BAFF 2019 Playtime’s Over Short Film Review

Laurie (Haley Leary) an S-Mart employee decides to pick up a babysitting gig to earn some extra cash. She gets more than she bargained for when Dee, (Evan Reames) a young girl obsessed with horror movies decides to terrorize her sitter by setting up a series of games. After this dreadful experience I don’t think Laurie will be babysitting anytime soon.
Playtime’s Over is an homage to some of my favorite horror classics. From Evil Dead to Carrie this film brought me back to my love of horror at a young age. There’s something so creepy and unnerving about a child wrecking havoc on the person who’s one job is to protect them. I was a babysitter myself back in the early 2000’s. I remember it like it was yesterday. The fear of something happening and knowing that someone else’s child was my responsibility is a big deal. Taking this concept and making the child the “villain” is a brilliant concept that works well both in writing and on screen.
With a movie like this it’s very easy to get carried away and make the entire movie one big throwback. That isn’t the case here. Each film reference was used methodically and rationally making it a truly unique experience. I found myself pointing at the screen multiple times saying “Oh, that’s good!” Or “I know that reference!” It is truly refreshing to see a horror short that is meant to be goofy and over the top while remaining true to itself. This is something I have tremendous respect for.
Overall I think Playtime’s Over is a success. It has a little something for everyone and It’s a movie that can be watched by viewers more than once. I give this film an 8/10. My only complaint is some of the acting was a little off. Aside from that I think Writer Todd Jacobs and Director Tony Reams did a fantastic job. I hope to see more of their work in the future. Playtime’s Over is a part of Buried Alive Film Festival 2019.

The Fare (2019)

Cab driver stuck in the middle of nowhere picks up a passenger. As he drives her to town she suddenly disappears....and then things reset and it all happens again and again... As things play out over and over again he becomes more and more aware  of what is happening...

Forgive me for no saying more but to do so would reveal too much. Honestly I recommended this film to a couple of friends and had to tell them I'm recommending THE FARE to you for reasons which will become clear once you see it-however until you see it I can't tell you what they are. Trust me on this, the fun of the ride is waiting to see how it all plays out.

A good cast and good direction over come the limited budget and over use of computer generated images (don't go crazy its some shots of the cab  and nothing that implies anything else) to make this a compelling little time passer. While not destined to make top ten lists, it is something that you are likely to sit through more than once simply to find all of the clues that you realized were there all along, which is something you probably won't be able to say about most films on top ten lists.


The Fare will be available nationwide November 19th on Blu-ray and Digital HD, including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more from Epic Pictures.

Blood in the Snow Film Festival Starts Thursday- Go Buy Tickets

The exquisitely programmed Blood in The Snow Film Festival starts Thursday in Toronto Canada and you must go buy tickets. because there are pretty much no bad movies... really there really are no truly bad films. Yes, there are some I don't care for but they aren't bad, they are not my cup of tea and I know why they were programmed because odds are if I was doing the programming I would have chosen them too. While I have not seen everything, I still have a few more to go, I have seen most of the films and I can attest to how good the films are.

Our coverage starts in a day or so and it will feature pretty much every film that was made available to the press for screening so expect a lot of pieces over the next week.

If you want a few choices before the reviews start might I suggest the following:

HAPPY FACE- is a great film about a young man who finds a family with a group of people who don't look normal. They have diseases or conditions that make them look different. It is not a horror or any sort of genre film, but a loving and lovely drama that I have been recommending since I saw it January at Slamdance.

THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS is proof that we do need another crazed Santa film. I know you will argue against it, but I say this wicked little gem is the exception to the rule and a must see.

SHE NEVER DIED is a masterpiece. One of the best films of any type I've seen in 2019 it has Olunike Adeliyi in a star making performance as Lilly, a woman who has been alive for centuries and has seen it all.  She is one of the greatest women ever put on film and is so good that you will be jonesing for a sequel.

As for the shorts- they are all worth a look. I am planning on reviewing them all, however because the films have been coming in dribs and drabs, and becuase some are playing with features, I am reviewing them in random grouping instead of in the groups they are being shown. They are all worth seeing.

My favorites so far are:

THE VIDEO STORE COMMERCIAL- which is what happens when the making of a commercial for a video store goes wrong.

ABHORRENT- a horribly unpleasant film about a pregnant woman trying to protect her family.

GILTRUDE'S DWELLING which is a wonderful fantasy which I want to see expanded or continued.

As I said it's all good so see when you can go and buy some tickets. Information and tickets can be had here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019


Excellent look at the life and legacy of Gold Meir built around an unseen interview done with her after a broadcast in 1978. In it she is candid and open about her life and career. It is supplemented by interviews with people who knew her or were witness to the various events. For anyone who sees her as the great mother of Israel this film is a revelation. A humanizing portrait that really makes clear why her reputation within Israel is much more complicated then we out side of it think. One of the great discoveries of DOC NYC I can’t wait to see it again.

Red Dog
Musician Luke Dick interviews his mother and those she worked with the notorious Red Dog Bar where her mother worked as a stripper. It’s a wild ride that hold nothing back. While I couldn’t imagine having these sort of conversations with my mom, I really think I probably would have had these sort of conversations with my mother if she was still alive. Actually if my mother was still alive I’d probably force her to see the movie and then track down Dick’s mother so the two of them could hang out.
That’s a rave.
Absolute bawdy fun.

On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship
A look behind the curtain of the government of Myanmar (aka Burma) and at its leader Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the award for standing up against the military leadership but lost the respect of the world for not stepping in and stopping the Rohingya genocide. An eye opening and deeply troubling film that reveals why things are the way the are in the country and how seemingly good people can slide onto the wrong end of history. If you want a clear eyed look at the situation in Myanmar this film is a must.

My First Kiss and the People Involved (2019)

Sam, a withdrawn young woman living in a group home doesn't speak much. When Lydia, one of the caretakers disappears after a party Sam goes to find her and finds her whole world shaken to it's core.

Frankly this is exactly the sort of small film that Unseen Films was set up to highlight, it is  a small flower of a film that deserves to find it’s audience. It’s one of the thousands of small films that is always in danger of disappearing off the face of the earth simply because it is not being pushed by a mega studio, or doesn’t have a big name cast, or isn’t full of exploding robots.

To be honest I don’t know what I think of MY FIRST KISS AND THE PEOPLE INVOLVED. That doesn’t mean that I disliked the film, only that I haven’t fully formed an opinion of it yet. A small delicate, lyrically, beautiful film, it is unlike almost any other film you’ve ever seen. It’s like being dropped into an pastoral painting from the 18th or 19th century but with modern items in the background. The entire visual and aural side of the film instantly creates a mood and tactile feel unlike any other. You can feel smell and taste the images, not just see and hear them. It is a glorious achievement that the Academy would recognize if there was justice in the world.

The performances are killer. Everyone from Bobbi Salvör Menuez on down don’t so much act as inhabit their characters. These are real people going through their paces and we are better for it. They are so good that we let any dinks or dunks that come along because we are convinced that we are watching gorgeously shot moments in time.

And yet I am not sure what I think. As much as I love everything about this film I am not sure about how I feel about the ending. Something about the ending just didn’t quite click with me. Again it is not anything fatal, hell I am strongly recommending the film, rather it means I am going to have to ponder the film a bit and then revisit it. I am going to need to take a second run by it and see how I feel.

Until I do take that second look I suggest that you put the film on your list of films to watch, there is magic with in it that you should experience.

Available now on Amazon Prime

The Longest Wave (2019) DOC NYC

This is a portrait of champion windsurfer/kiter surfer/ stand up paddle boarder and just plain surfer Robby Naish as he tries to find and ride the longest wave.

I must confess my desire to do an incredibly short review had me toying with the simple statement "It's just okay" but I thought that would be rude.

Rude or not the film really is just okay. While not bad, and certain to gain stature on the big screen where the wide vistas will have the audience sighing in awe, it is in fact exactly like any other of the recent docs to have come out over the last ten years- all of which follow the rise of the surfer from when they were a kid up to the present. All have some catch or another to be sure, but all are structured exactly alike which is fine but grows tiresome around the twenty minute mark of all the films.

Honestly I would have expected more from director Joe Berlinger who has made some of the most arresting docs of the past couple of decades.

Worth a look on the big screen, but if you aren't seeing it that way its best for surf fans only.

Weep Not (2019)

Weep Not is a small scale gem. The film is about the power of forgiveness to free us from being eaten alive.

The film is the story of a woman named Journey who forgives the man who molested her as a child. It is a beautifully acted film (Cheray O'Neal as the adult Journey is awesome) that has a kick in the tail. It's one of those films that quietly sneaks up on you and hits you when you least expect it.

If I may quibble just a bit with the film, I wish it was a little longer. I wish the switch from the sequence with Journey’s grandmother to the confrontation was a little less abrupt. I wish there was something to bridge the two. While it isn’t fatal, far from it the film as it stands knocked my feet from out from under me, had there been a bit more this I might have been completely laid out and crushed.

Quibble aside Weep Not is a must.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Anna (2019)

Middle aged single mother desperate for change decides to go to a party where single American men will be to try her luck.

Good small slice of life feels like this is part of a much bigger story. I want to see what happens on either side of this film which is big a ave as you can get.

As great as this film is, and it is duper from top to bottom I have to single out star Svetlana Barandich, who gives one of the great performances I've seen in 2019. This is a towering achievement that makes me want to see her go toe to to with Gena Rowlands who is perhaps the only force of nature who could possible not get lost in her presence. How in the hell has this woman not come on my radar before this?

Yea ANNA is a great film and you'll want to see it because it's so good but when it's done you'll be talking about Svetlana Barandich.


Denial (2019)

I like Timothy  J Cox a great deal. We have been talking on line for a couple of years now and I sat down and hell of a conversation with him about acting that I shared with all of you earlier this year. However I have come to realize that he really doesn’t like me much. I say that with love and affection because he has thrown down the gauntlet and had dared me to try and review the 3 minute film DENIAL…which is nigh on impossible to review.

The film concerns a husband and wife and a toilet that won’t flush.

And that is all I can say. No really I can’t say more because the whole film hinges on the end and I can’t discuss it.

I can say that the film is really good and worth seeing…but other than that this is one you need to see for yourself.


Filmmaker Stéphane Riethauser’s portrait of his grandmother who raised him to be the alpha male who took over the family business, however he found he another course in LGBT activism. He tries to unknot the expectations of family and their love in a film that is heart felt and personal. I very good film that speaks volumes about how we see family and how they see us.

Great Green Wall
Malian musician/activist Inna Modja travels across Africa to see efforts to build a great green wall of trees to help the environment and slow climate change. Full of music and stories this is a bubbly film with a serious edge that will get you thinking about things in all the right ways. If the film is a little too flashy at times it’s okay simply because the film is so full of life it can’t help but burst out in song. Recommended

Kate Nash: Under Estimate The Girl
Portrait of British sing Kate Nash who rapidly rose in the music industry only to be suddenly let go by her label. Music filled bio is full of good music and scenes from the life of a rock star (at one point she says she’s only had one day off in the previous year) that acts as a good introduction to the woman and her music. While the film is enjoyable, a little goes a long way with a bit too much polish making this not so much a full on bio but more a promotional puff piece. Don’t get me wrong I liked it but after a while I was full. Recommended for fans

Body of Truth
Portrait of artists Shirin Neshat ; Marina Abramović; Sigalit Landau; and Katharina Sieverding highlighting their work and philosophy behind their art. A stunning introduction to the ladies and their work. While it may not be detailed enough for some people, especially considering that each, has and especially Abromovic have been the subject of several documentaries, it does act as an excellent primer for all their work. Very recommended.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Blessed Child (2019) DOC NYC 2019

Blessed Child is wonderfully unexpected. A look at director Cara Jones' life particularly her relationship with the Unification Church where her parents are big mucky mucks, what I thought was going to be a blistering expose on the church and it’s cult like status turned out to be thoughtful portrait  of Jones‘s family and how the church and her eventual splitting with with it shaped everyone's lives.

I was kind of blindsided by the film. It's my own fault I went in with all sorts of preconceived notions that were based on nothing. I had a picture of what the film was going in  so I was looking at the film kind of sideways for much of the first half of the film. I kept waiting for the film to be what I thought it was going to be (a sensationalistic expose). Then I had an "AH HA!" moment and the film fell together and I could see it for what it is, a really good look at family and religion. 

While the film deals with all sorts of issues and themes what I really liked about the film is how the film explores our expectations. Jones opens herself up to us in discussing the waves of feelings and thoughts she had about the Church and her move away from it.  She was uncertain how leaving the church, which is huge part of her life and that of her family thanks to her parents status, was going to play out. Would this break the family?  She is surprised by how it all goes.

And so are we which is what makes this film so interesting and oddly delightful because we, like Jones find out that this is not a tale about the Unification Church but about a family and it's shifting dynamic. It is a dynamic that makes this a much more universal tale than it had any right to be.