Monday, May 23, 2022

Since I Been Down (2020) hits VOD tomorrow


Kimonti Carter was sent to prison in 1997 for a drive by shooting that killed an innocent bystander. He thought he was shooting at a car full of the rival gang members. He was wrong and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole because of Washington State's Three Strikes law. Where that might be a good thing in some cases, in Carter's case it's a disaster since Carter seems to have rehabilitated and now educates the other inmates. 

While nominally Carter's story the film is actually something much greater. Carter is only the jumping off point for an examination of how Carter came to be in prison and how society and its racism and need to keep the poor down created a situation that traps millions of  African Americans every year.While the film specifically shows how it happened in Carter's Washington neighborhood it speaks to the larger issue of America as a whole.

Covering as many films as I do I see a number of similar film every year and as a result I can say with certainty that SINCE I BEEN DOWN is one of the best. Insisting on talking to everyone who might have a real insight (there are not many academics here) the film gives us the real story from the mouths of the people who are living through the problems it seeks to correct. Watching the film this was one of the few times where I felt like I was getting wisdom from a life lived and not from a book read.

This is a great film tmakes you think and feel and makes you want  to actually go out and try to solve the problem beyond the twenty minutes after the film ends. 

Highly recommended

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Up To G Cup (2022) HRWFF 2022


UP TO G CUP is a delight .

The film is the story of a Kurdish woman and a Yazidi woman who open up a shop selling women’s under garments in Iraq. It’s a delightful portrait of two woman following their passion while at the same time being a bracing look at a society that puts men in the fore front.  The road to success is not an easy one but the two women are game to try.

What I love about the film is that no matter what  you think the film is going to be it isn’t that.  This is a film that is as surprising as real life. It’s the cinematic equivalent to reading a news story or a guide book about a place and then when you go there you find it is completely different than what you expected. For me this is the result of two decades of watching TV news of Iraq and having it be a certain way in my head because of all the images of war. The reality is of course that it is a place of just regular people.

I was delighted.

Late in the film there is a film are some scenes of some older women in the shop sitting around talking. It’s a wonderful moment because it means that the place has become something. If people come and talk and are engaged, especially older ladies then you’ve created something special.

This film truly is something special. It is a film that reminds us that the images in the media are really just people and that we all share a common humanity.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Rebellion (2022) HRWFF 2022

 


Rebellion is the story of the group Extinction Rebellion(XR) which seeks to make people aware that the we are running out of time in regard to out climate. The film charts the groups battle to make the government of England take the threat seriously. The film charts their acts of civil disobedience and  internal struggle to change from focusing on the climate crisis and instead make it about climate justice.

To be honest Rebellion didn’t really work for me. While the subject is important, I never really connected. While the subject is important there never really was a sense of urgency. We are hanging out with friends having tea instead of being in the middle of the fight to save the planet.

This is a good film but it’s not a great one.

No U Turn (2022) HRWFF 2022



Filmmaker Ike Nnaebue makes his first documentary and retraces his trip from his home in Nigeria across Africa in search of a better life. Along the line he examines the dangers faced my those migrating for a better life as well as the exploring the reasons why someone would give up everything they knew to make a new life in another land.

In age where so many people are migrating in an effort to flee war this look at a different reason to be on the move is eye opening. This is a film that at least half of America needs to see. Living in a country where a good number of the people live in fear that immigrants are coming to get them this film makes it clear why people are so willing to move.

Make no mistake this is a bittersweet tale. Just because people are willing to go it doesn’t mean that they are going to make it. Circumstance, a lack of funds and other factors loom at every turn. Many people end up stuck along their way, unable to to go forward… ot go back either because of no cash or because of shame. Yes some stories seem like a repeat of others but that’s because there are only too many people trying to make a trip that can only end in a limited number of ways.

I really like this film a great deal. Director Nnaebue has made a film of incredible power. Not only is it s great examination of migration but it’s also a hell of a portrait of the people on screen. It’s a hell of a story where we move our seat closer to the screen because we want to hang out with everyone passing before us. My love of the film comes not from from the documenting of a journey, rather its from  Nanaebue’s instance on keeping the people and their humanity front and center. At no point does anyone disappear into the crown and become just a face or a cut out.  The result is a film that moves us.

Recommended.

The New Greatness (2022) HRWFF 2022

 


The New Greatness of the title was an on-line community where young Russians met up to talk about life. They spoke about the usual things in life. When politics started to be discussed with some questions about the Putin being raised someone in the group suggested they meet up to talk in person. This person turned out to be an agent for the Putin government with the result that everyone was arrested and their homes were raided. The kids were locked up and their parents, many previously pro-Putin, turned into activists in an effort to get their kids back.   The film focuses on the family of Anya, one of the people arrested and tossed in jail.

Filmed over a three year period the film is a look behind the curtain of Putin’s Russian. It’s a land ruled by fear and where even those supporting the government are afraid of their own safety. It’s a film that reveals how sometimes even in time of fear some people will take a stand when the life of a loved one is at stake.

How the New Greatness plays for audiences is now is going to be very differently than it would have been before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I say this because watching the film I kept talking to the screen about how much worse things would have been had the events were playing out now. Where Putin and his stormtroopers were cracking down on anyone who refused to tow his party line, now things are much worse with anti-war activists disappearing.

This is a film which will make you angry. More so in light of current world events. I really can’t say more than that because the bullshit level of Putin and his lackies make it hard not to be detached and objective.

I will say the film is very recommended, especially if you want a look into the madness that is burning a hole into Europe

Friday, May 20, 2022

Ernie Stevens on HOLD YOUR FIRE (2022)


Opening today in theaters is the documentary HOLD YOUR FIRE.  The film is the story of the longest hostage stand-off in New York City history. It was a point at which all of the rules for handling those sort of situations changed since the NYPD was forced to alter their (non-existent) methods involving threats of force and to try something subtler.  While I was watching the film earlier this week all I could think was "I wondered what Ernie would think."

For those of you who don’t know Ernie Stevens is a former San Antonio policeman who specialized in crisis resolution. He along with his then partner Joe Smarro were profiled in the HBO documentary ERNIE AND JOE: CRISIS COPS. Ernie has  since retired from the force and he now tours the country  speaking on crisis descalation, as well as being the writer with Nicholas Ruggerio of the best selling Mental health & De-escalation: A guide for law enforcement professionals (Real cops training Book 1) .

I met Ernie when I interviewed  him, Joe and  Jennifer McShane director of ERNIE AND JOE when they were promoting the film.  After the interview Ernie and I fell into a conversation that has been going on for three years now.  Because of Ernie’s background I had to find out if he saw HOLD YOUR FIRE and what he thought of it.

In response he sent me back the short piece that follows.  While it speaks specifically to the film , his words also say volumes about where we are as society and how we view the police and the way they view us. When I read it I was deeply moved, partly because I could relate to what he was saying as someone who works in the criminal justice field, but also because his words speak to all of us.

I want to thank Ernie for letting me share his thoughts on HOLD YOUR  FIRE and on the state of policing.


I watched the documentary and found myself at times angry with the police, denying racism and the disregard for human life. I also felt for the officers that watched a fellow member of the department shot and killed. Senseless crimes can lead to horrible outcomes for everyone involved, no matter what side of the incident you find yourself on. 

I felt a real connection to Dr. Harvey and his approach to human connection through active listening. I still use and teach the model that he spoke about in the film. It is mindblowing how far law enforcement has come but also how far it still has to go. 

Restorative Justice is an issue I strongly believe in and it can be a catalyst for healing. We, as a country, are so divided when it comes to policing in America and what that should look like. Racism is still a huge issue and implicit bias training is a check the box for many departments. 

I have faith in humanity, I have faith that law enforcement is still a noble profession. This film did a really good job describing the different point of views and the mindset of those directly involved in the incident. As a result of the racial tensions and the disconnect with law enforcement, the vicarious trauma spilled over into the community and they began to cause disruption during a tense standoff. This is where procedural justice is so important. The difference between legitimate authority and statutory authority is the chasm that separates this country today. Authority is given to law enforcement by the community, what we do with it is our gift back to them. 

You Resemble Me (2022) HRWFF 2022

 


This a portrait of suicide bomber Hasna Aït Boulahcen, who went from regular girl trying to protect her family to one surviving on the streets to a radicalized young woman who blew herself up in 2015.  

A kind of hypnotic film this is a film that pulls us in and makes us wonder how a young woman can change over time and end her life in a dramatic manner. The films power is in that while it explains, to some degree how the change happens, it also raises any number of questions that don’t have easy answers.  Watching the film at home I was left staring at the screen pondering what I had just seen. It’s the sort of film that you really need to see with someone, or with a theater full of people because when it’s over, it’s a film that  you are going to want to talk about.  Best of all even if you don’t “like” the film you are going to be forced to talk about it. Even if you don’t like it you are still going to have to wrestle with how you feel about what it is showing you.

As you can see I am not being very substantive in discussing the film, and that is intentional. This is not a film I can discuss in a vacuum. This is a film that forces my engagement with another person or people. I need to bounce my thoughts off someone and seeing the film alone at home makes leaves me wanting to ask questions and hash them out rather than simply stating my thoughts.

On a substantive level the film is a beautifully made and acted film. It’s a solid drama that, at least for me, is lost in the vital issues about radicalization and the feelings that bring it on.

Highly recommended. See it with a friend.

New Old Play opens today



Theatrically rooted film  is the life as portrayed on stage, and which mirrors the conventions of stage.

Three hour film is a one of kind trip through history. Playing unlike any film I’ve seen (expect perhaps some of Obyashi’s final films)  this is sensory delight for those film lovers who want something different and theater lovers who miss the magic of theater on the big screen.

A treat and recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Eternal Spring (2022) Human Right Watch Film Festival 2022

 


“In China they will kill a thousand people just to get the right one”

Daxiong, comic illustrator and member of the  Falun Gong , recounts the story of the groups bold hijacking of the official state TV channel to broadcast a message counter to the official Chinese message that members of Falun Gong were dangerous terrorists. Horrific reprisals resulted where the government crushed and killed anyone they thought might have even been remotely part of the plan.

This  tale of a doomed plot to get the truth out is both heartbreaking and suspenseful. If you know anything about the Chinese government feelings toward Falun Gong you know that a lot of people are going to die. The group is their boogieman and they love to destroy its members in the most horrific ways. There have been numerous accounts of the criminal things they have done against the innocent people of the group and this is another. The suspense is there because you have to see how it was all done and how it played out. It’s a real version of the Star Wars Film Rogue One, but sadder, since the broadcast message didn’t change anything.

I was rocked.

What helps make this film work is the amazing animation. Designed by Daxiong, the animation adds so much to the tale. Not only does it allow events to be illustrated, it also results in a definite feel. We are in China at the turn of the millennium and not in the theater where we are seeing the film. Its beautifully done and gives the viewing a tactile quality that a straight live action recreation might not have ever achieved.

While the world is focused on the evils of Putin and Russia with their war in Ukraine, Eternal Spring is a reminder that China is probably worse and that we need to be very careful in our dealing with the Mainland government.

Highly recommended

Midwives (2022) HRWFF 2022


MIDWIVES was one of the great films at Sundance. 

The film is the story of two midwives, one Buddhist and one Muslim, in Myanmar who work together to give their community health care and deliver babies despite the fact that the Myanmar government is trying to ethnically cleanse the country of Muslims. 

It’s a deeply moving film full of humanity that makes it clear that there is no real difference between people other than the labels we stupidly put upon ourselves. This is a film that will make you run a spectrum emotions as you see how the acts of good people can make a difference even as bad people commit crimes. I was moved.

Highly recommended this film deserves more and better words than I can manage- though if these words can get you to see it it will have been enough.

Delikado (2022) Human Rights Watch FIlm Festival 2022


Delikado is  hell of a film. The film is the story  of the people on the island of Palawan in the Philippines who are fighting to keep their rain forest intact. One of the last rain forests in the world that hasn’t been severely compromised by the action of mankind the jungle is coveted by the rich and powerful. Who work to take to control of the land and resources by any means necessary.  Feeding into the madness is the former President Duterte’s criminal war on drugs, a reign of terror in disguise, where official and unofficial hit squads killed or brutalized anyone that they deemed part of the drug trade.

Lush and beautiful landscapes are counterbalanced by the evil that men do as activists and local officials are forced to fight the main government and interlopers. It’s a story which will make you angry.

The film is a portrait of three people Bobby Chen head of the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI) which goes into the jungle to stop the illegal destruction of the rain forest. Efren "Tata" Balladeres, a one time government agent, turned activist and Nieves Rosento, mayor of one of the towns on the island. She is loved by her constituents and wants to keep the jungle intact. However her opponent is backed by the Philippines psychotic President Duterte and has been labeled as being in league with the drug dealers which makes her a target for the hit squads.

Structured like a thriller the film shows us the dangers of protecting the jungle and the land from the forces seeking to exploit the land for the profit of a few.  And there is danger since one of the people we are following dies during the course of the film. While you will watch the film for the suspense, the reality is you should see the film because it will make you understand just how the environment is under attack and how big business and big money doesn’t care who dies so they get money.

This is a great film and highly recommended

Be prepared to get angry.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

FINAL CUT (2022) Cannes 2022


Michel Hazanavicius, The director of THE ARTIST, remakes ONE CUT OF THE DEAD and all I'm left to wonder is why?

I am not going to go into details concerning the plot because the film is a puzzle box that changes in every third. Nominally the film is about the shooting of a zombie film that goes horribly wrong when real zombies attack. What happens after that is the film

If you haven't seen the original then give the film a try because it may work for you. Additionally if you haven't seen the first film stop reading here because after this point I'm going to discuss things that will refer to twists and turns in the film.

Still reading?

Then I assume you know the original and I can discuss this version.

Honestly I didn't care for this film at all for two reasons. The first is a matter of execution and the second is a matter of taste.

Execution wise the film is essentially exactly the original. The film is set in France and everyone has Japanese names. They took the original script and tweaked it slightly (I mean the film runs about 15 minutes longer than the original) and trotted it out as something new  It feels so close  to the original at times I was wondering why I was bothering to watch this version, (When this was announced for Sundance, where it was originally supposed to premiere,  there was no mention of it being a remake and five minutes in I knew I had seen it before).I mean everything carries over.

The one big change that Hazanavicius made was he brought his sense of humor to the proceedings. There is a broadness and silliness to the comedy that you either love or hate. He makes things sillier than they were with the result being that if the humor doesn't click it will seem stupid. I'm not a fan of his humor going back to his earlier films and understand why his films, outside of THE ARTIST, never clicked in the US.

If you saw the original you can skip this version 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Hold Your Fire (2022) opens Friday

 


HOLD YOUR FIRE is a killer documentary.  It is the story of how hostage negotiations came about when the robbery of a sporting good store went horribly wrong and ended up the longest standoff in NYPD history.

The whole things started when four black men  tried to rob a sporting goods store in Brooklyn. They had wanted the guns for protection from the Black Panthers. The robbery was discovered and the police arrived. After a three hour shoot out.  The four men ended up holding 12 people hostages. As the police  followed their typical pattern of trying to bully the people inside to come out (Think Dog Day Afternoon), one of their number, an atypical cop with a psychology degree was allowed  to try something different and by flying by the seat of his pants managed to change how situations were resolved.

Let me cut to the chase, how good is HOLD YOUR FIRE? When it was done I started it over and watched it a second time.

This is an eye opening film on so many levels. As bad as things are now watching the film you quickly realize how bad things used to be. Its clear the NYPD had no clue and it’s incredibly lucky that none of the hostages were killed since the cops were rather trigger happy and they were considering just driving a tank into the store to end it. Watching the film you realize that we have moved toward a better place.

HOLD YOUR FIRE is a killer documentary.  It is the story of how hostage negotiations came about when the robbery of a sporting good store went horribly wrong and ended up the longest standoff in NYPD history.

The whole things started when four black men  tried to rob a sporting goods store in Brooklyn. They had wanted the guns for protection from the Black Panthers. The robbery was discovered and the police arrived. After a three hour shoot out.  The four men ended up holding 12 people hostages. As the police  followed their typical pattern of trying to bully the people inside to come out (Think Dog Day Afternoon), one of their number, an atypical cop with a psychology degree was allowed  to try something different and by flying by the seat of his pants managed to change how situations were resolved.

Let me cut to the chase, how good is HOLD YOUR FIRE? When it was done I started it over and watched it a second time.

This is an eye opening film on so many levels. As bad as things are now watching the film you quickly realize how bad things used to be. Its clear the NYPD had no clue and it’s incredibly lucky that none of the hostages were killed since the cops were rather trigger happy and they were considering just driving a tank into the store to end it. Watching the film you realize that we have moved toward a better place.

The film also beautifully lays out the feelings of the various groups involved. We come to understand why the men decided to rob the store. We understand the point of view of the hostages, the people outside  and even the cops many of which still feel that the robbers should have been put to death because a cop died during the gunfight.

This is a perfect time capsule of the early 1970’s. Watching the film I felt I was back in Brooklyn 50 years ago. There is a tactile feel to it all. I could feel what it was like to be in the city at the time.

What I love is there is complexity to it all. Director Stefan Forbes doesn’t sugar coat things. While he clearly explains what happened, he also leaves things messy. Things aren’t neat. We are not given explanations for how people not interviewed felt.  The result is something much closer to life rather than polished film. It gives the proceedings a weight that haunts us. I also understand how that may not work for people who want documentaries to be neat and clean.

I love this film. I can’t wait to see it yet again.

Highly recommended.The film also beautifully lays out the feelings of the various groups involved. We come to understand why the men decided to rob the store. We understand the point of view of the hostages, the people outside  and even the cops many of which still feel that the robbers should have been put to death because a cop died during the gunfight.

This is a perfect time capsule of the early 1970’s. Watching the film I felt I was back in Brooklyn 50 years ago. There is a tactile feel to it all. I could feel what it was like to be in the city at the time.

What I love is there is complexity to it all. Director --- doesn’t sugar coat things. While he clearly explains what happened, he also leaves things messy. Things aren’t neat. We are not given explanations for how people not interviewed felt.  The result is something much closer to life rather than polished film. It gives the proceedings a weight that haunts us. I also understand how that may not work for people who want documentaries to be neat and clean.

I love this film. I can’t wait to see it yet again.

Highly recommended.

Cane Fire (2020) open Friday

The directors grandfather
Anthony Banua-Simon's CANE FIRE is damn near close to a perfect film. Everything it needs to be a truly great film is there, except for the editing. As much as I like all of the pieces, I really wish someone other than the director had put the pieces together.

CANE FIRE is the story of  how the island of Kauai is portrayed in the movies...and it's the story of director  Banua-Simon's family on the island... and the history of Hawaii... and the history of labor relations and strife... and an effort to find the lost film that had his grandfather in it... and the relationship of the whites to all the ethnic people that lived on or were brought to the island to work... and how tourism and Hollywood warped history... and how no one can really live in Hawaii unless they are really rich....and three or four other thing which I have forgotten but which are covered in detail.

Trust me, it's  all there, beautifully told but done so in a way that pings around exactly like the previous paragraph, except that it keeps looping back through things.  The result is a really informative film that doesn't seem to know what it is about. Actually it knows what it's about it just wants takes long time to get there and it wants to throw in a lot of other stuff along the way. It's kind of like looking at lose pictures instead of one in an album where everything is in the best order possible.

Rarely has any film frustrated me so much.

In reality as much as I am bitching about CANE FIRE being a mess I am forgetting to say that the film on its own terms is good. It isn't nearly as great as it should be but it is good. It raises a lot of questions that need to be looked into. It is a film that forces you to think about what Hollywood and tourism do, as well as consider the battle to earn a decent living.

I like CANE FIRE but I wanted to love it.  To that end I am going to recommend the film at Hot Docs, but with a warning that it does bounce around.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Emergency (2022) hits theaters Friday before it hits Amazon Prime next week

 


An expansion of director Carey Williams' short film, EMERGENCYis the story of two African American college students who plan on making a legendary run of frat parties. Complications ensue, before during dire when going home to change for the run they discover a white girl passed out in their living room. Uncertain what to do, they and their roomate who left the door unlocked, struggle to figure out what to do and keep themselves out of jail.

An uneasy mix of comedy and social drama this is one part a wild and crazy night style comedy mixed with very real social concerns. It makes for a lot of unconfortable laughs as tyical jokes of this style of comedy take on darker tones since the boys know there is a good chance that if they call for help they could end up dead from a "misunderstanding" on the part of the police. Its a clever spinning of things that occasionally clunks in moments like the white homeowners telling the black kids to get out of the neighborhood and stop selling frugs before going to to a house with a black lives matter sign outside. It's not that the moment isn't real, more that its low hanging laughs in a film that wants to be more.

While I like EMERGENCY, I don't love it. I admire what it is trying to do more than I love what it does. I love that spins things to make up think, but it doesn't always succeed, especially in an ending which, while right on target in many ways, doesn't actually hit it because of the tone.

Still, there is enough here to make the film worth seeing.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Nightcap 5/15/22- Human Rights Watch Film Festival Starts this week and other notes.


This week the Human Rights Watch Film Film Festival starts here in New York, Running at Lincoln Center  and the IFC Center as well as on line, the festival is the annual look at films that are highlight social issues across the globe.

Normally I would do a full on proper curtain raiser and give recommendations of which titles to see, but having seen all of the films except THE JANES, I can honestly say they are all good and all worth your time. I will have reviews of everything closer to the screenings

If you want more information or to get tickets go here.
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With Tribeca less than month away I am happy to report that Unseen films has been credentialed and will be in the trenches. Coverage has started being put together with Ariela banging out several reviews already.

I have no idea how much we will be able to cover but it should be a lot since We at Unseen will be sharing coverage with Liz Whittemore and the Reel News Daily crew to cover what we can before collapsing into a heap.

We are still working out details so keep reading to see what we pull together.
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And yea I’m remiss in getting a couple of long promised pieces up. Forget the filmmakers list which is growing by leaps and bounds and is pushing me farther and farther behind, that’s a project that is going to be finished by other hands after I pass on. I still need to do a piece on this years New York International Children’s Film Festival, and another on the Living Dead Museum in Monroeville. My excuse for both is that that pictures are still locked in my camera.

I also have a couple long unfinished piece, one on Tarzan and another on Benjamin Button that may see the light of day soon, or not.

On the other hand my latest talk with Patrick Meaney is close to being done and will post when THE BRINK OF... its festival. in June
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The cost of everything is out of control, but you know that.

As this posts I’m trying to sort out what I’m doing with Tribeca  beyond the press credentials, because I was looking to buy tickets for some events and found out that I just can’t afford them. Yes I would love to hear JR speak but I can’t afford to  pay almost $50 to do so. As for several other events the cost is just a bit too much.

I went to Broadway last weekend with Peter Gutierrez to see Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga in the Scottish play. While we had a great time, the only way we could afford it was by running some manipulation of things and bringing in gift cards. While the show is an event show so more expensive then others is kind of expected, but the real truth is the fact is that even discounted shows are basically out of reach now. I mean the discounts on shows are the ticket prices I used to balk at because they were the too expensive full price.

It feels as though many events, Broadway and concerts are now trying to make up for all the lost revenue from the covid shut down. Add in the rising cost of gas and transportation and hotels and it's rapidly become impossible to do anything but stay home and watch TV- though even the streaming services and cable costs are shooting out of control.

Sadly its has come to the point where I can’t afford do the things I loved to do.

Two Gladiators

When Emperor Marcus Aurelius dies his son Commodus takes the throne. He is such an evil force a senator who knows he has a hidden twin brother runs off to find him and bring him back in the hope that he can seize the throne for good.

Made in the wake of FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE the film is a good little historical drama that moves along at a good clip. Echoing the Oscar winning GLADIATOR the film is much less pretentious and it its way much more fun than the Oscar winning film.

Worth a look.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Bulldog Drummond at Bay

John Lodge is Captain Hugh Drummond in one of a long series of films (its one of thee films from 1937 all with different Drummond's. The other two are the miscast Ray Milland and the perfectly cast John Howard).

Here Drummond and his friends take on a group of foreign spies trying to get their hands on a new plane. One of the baddies is played to perfection by Victory Jory, who really turns in a highly evil performance. This is one of the darkest of any of the Drummond films with the bad guys really doing a number on anyone and everyone who fall into their hands.

This is a solid, if slightly nasty little film that plays very differently than the seven films that followed with John Howard in the lead. Those films, while good little mysteries of their own, were just a tad lighter than this film. Very much worth a look, especially if one looks at how the character changed in one year by watching Ray Milland in Bulldog Drummond Escapes and John Howard in Bulldog Drummond Comes Back.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Brief thoughts on PLEASURE (2021) which opens today


PLEASURE is a look at the adult film industry. The the story of an actress named Bella Cherry who wades into the industry wanting to be the best. However circumstances sends her up and down various pathways that may not lead to places she wants to go.

When I saw this film at Sundance in 2021 I thought  it is was a good film, and wonderfully not like Hollywood's portrayal of the industry. However I was disappointed that the plotting didn't do anything unexpected and you kind of knew where its going because, while there aren't a lot of films about the porn industry, almost of them, short of a porn film, follow the same route with the only question being how banged up is the person at the center going to be in the end.

AT the same time its frank handling of the material and refusal to paint things as purely black or white, despite taking the familiar course, has me still pondering the  film a year later.  

While not for all audiences it's worth a look for those curious.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES is on Netflix now


 I had a blast watching LIKE A ROLLING STONE: THE LIFE & TIMES OF BEN FONG-TORRES. This is a wonderful portrait of a guy who was in the right place at the right time and not only saw but helped shaped the history of rock and roll and popular music as we know it.  Make no mistake what Torres was doing as a DJ  as well as writer altered what we as readers and listeners thought about the music we were consuming.

I don’t know what to say but this is a perfect example of when you have a great subject you don’t have to dress it up. Yes the film uses typical tricks to gussy up the proceeding by link interviews, videos and stills, but you won’t remember any of that, what you will remember is the man and his stories. Torres is nothing if not a great story teller and we are better for it. Actually what he is a pack rat and the fact that he still has the tapes of all the interviews will blow your mind.  (Someone please digitize all of them before they disappear)

This film is so much fun.

Highly recommended.