Wednesday, February 21, 2024

KISS THE FUTURE (2023) plays AMC theaters starting 2/23


I'm kind of sad that many of my fellow writers refused to see KISS THE FUTURE because they saw it as a U2 film. They didn't want to see a film about the rock group. The problem is that while U2 are part of the story, they are only a part of it, and so they missed a wonderful film.

To be fair I went into the film because it was the only one screening at the time that I hadn't seen.  The plan was that I would watch 15 or 20 minutes of this U2 movie and then jump to the next thing. Instead I ended up staying to the end and trying to find tissues in my bag.

The film is the story of Siege of Sarajevo. Its what happened when Yugoslavia broke up and the Bosnian leaders decided to use lies in order to wipe out the Muslim minorities that they had been living with peacefully for decades. As the war came the people of Sarajevo dug in and tried to survive. Like the present situation in Ukraine they turned to music and art to get by. Through circumstances U2 heard about how their music was helping them get by and promised to come play...and then they came up with the idea of making the war part of their Zoo TV tour.

Its a hell of a tale that you just need to see. There is a hope in the tale that will make you feel good. It's also a tale with incredible parallels to the war in Ukraine, which the film makes clear in the end. 

I was moved to tears several times. 

Forget that this a U2 film, forget that Matt Damon produced, just realize that this is great story wonderfully told that may help you get back you faith in humanity.

Highly recommended

Si Pudiera Quedarme (If I Could Stay) (2024) Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Si Pudiera Quedarme / If I Could Stay_Trailer from Theo Rigby on Vimeo.

This is a portrait of two undocumented Latinx mothers, Jeanette Vizguerra and Ingrid Encalada Latorre as they try to avoid being deported from the country they now call home by taking  refuge in local churches.

Before covid there was a lot of publicity about undocumented migrants taking refuge in churches. There were several documentaries made and then things went quiet. With Si Pudiera Quedarme (If I Could Stay) premiering, the notion of taking refuge in a church is brought back into the spotlight.

This is a very good look at  what taking refuge means. As it is pointed out by choosing to take refuge you are essentially locking yourself up just as you would be if the authorities were to pick you up.  It shows us what the women do during the day and how they are forced to interact with the family that is still outside in the world.

I was moved.

This is an excellent look at what some people who belong in America have to do to remain here.

Recommended

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

And today Unseen Films turns 14

Today unseen films turns 14.

It's been a wild ride. Thank you for coming along

I'm going back to bed so no reviews today

Monday, February 19, 2024

RAÍZ THROUGH ROCKS AND CLOUDS (2024) Berlin 2024

 

RAÍZ  THROUGH   ROCKS AND CLOUDS is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. It is not just the images themselves but the craft that went into creating them. The framing and arrangement of people and objects within the frame is awe inspiring in the truest sense of the word. I was floored simply looking at people standing and talking. Flat out this is one of the greatest films ever made simply from a technical point of view.

And from a regular stand point it’s great too.

Don’t let the fact that this film is the story of a Feliciano an 8 year old boy in the Andes who shepherds lalpacas make you think that this isn’t going to make you smile and think. The tale of a young boy coming of age as a mining company comes to town looking to take over is going to move you. It will move you in all sorts of ways. While some of it will anger you, much of it will delight you as you watch Feliciano and his alpaca be a kid and his pet and get excited about a game which will determine if the team from Peru goes to the World Cup.

This film is pure magic. It is a wonderful celebration of humanity and life.

When the film ended I sat there dumbstruck. Granted the film has just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, but how is there no buzz around it. How is it that no one has seen it? Of course this is a bad mistake on my part since it assumes that people psychically know about films that haven’t played anywhere yet.

I freaking loved this film. I loved the images. I loved the characters. I loved that the film made me feel things with genuine emotion. I loved that every laugh smile and tear is earned.

 RAÍZ  THROUGH   ROCKS AND CLOUDS is why I cover film festivals. NAY- THIS IS WHY I LOVE THE MOVIES

You must see this-and you must see it on the big screen where the images will fill you with delight.

Highly recommended

Good Guy With a Gun (2022) hits- digital February 20


After his father is killed trying to stop a robbery, a young man and his mother move to the country. Falling in with some guys who like to shoot guns, both mother and son find their relationship strained. However things begin to take a darker turn and its not certain they will survive.

This is a really good drama/thriller. The reason the film works is that we are introduced to a number of atypical characters. Say what you will most of the people are not the sort of people we typically see in films and as a result the film is so much closer to real life. The small moments, outside of the main plot lines, carry atypical weight.

The film is being billed as a look at guns in our society from the stand point that things are not as cut and dry as the media would have us believe. I think the film succeeds in what it trying to do, this is a good drama that makes it clear that guns unto themselves are not bad. The problem is always the people handling them.  At a time when everyone is blaming guns for shootings, GOOD GUY WITH A GUN makes it clear that we need to really examine the issue beyond viewing it as a black or white matter.

On top of the message, and more importantly, this is a really good drama/thriller. Its not something we've seen a million times before.

Definitely worth a look.

Apple TV (pre-order link https://tv.apple.com/us/movie/good-guy-with-a-gun/umc.cmc.h7o17jwqq5hruybl061ltp3h)

AT&T U-Verse

DirecTV

Dish Network and Sling TV

iN DEMAND 

Vubiquity 

Hoopla - libraries

AmazonVudu

Xbox

Google Play

YouTube Movies

The DVD will be available via Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, Walmart.com, and Barnesandnoble.com by the end of February.

About Dry Grasses (2023) opens Friday


A big favorite at this past New York Film Festival ABOUT DRY GRASSES tells the story of a school teacher in a small village in the Anatolia region of Turkey. As he prepares to finish up his fourth year at the school complications arise.

This is a really good film. I had wanted to see it at NYFF but the run time of three and a half hours made it difficult because of how it ran across other films. I was also wary because I was afraid of getting locked into a really long film at the festival where it might be difficult to bolt.

I should not have worried. This film is a compelling film. Watching the film for my year end catch up I figured that if I didn't like it I could just move on to something else.  However from the first frame to the last I was held captive by the film. I was completely engaged with the people up on the screen. I was carried away.  To be honest I really don't know if the film needed to be 217 minutes, I started to waiver a bit after two hours, but at the same time I wasn't going anywhere because I wanted to see where it was headed.

If you want a great drama and have the time, I highly recommend ABOUT DRY GRASSES.


REAS (2024) Berlin 2024


This is a one of a kind film that you'll want to see.  

The film is the story of Yoseli who goes to prison and finds some people there with whom she forms a music group.

This is a film that is recreation of the stories of the people who are appearing in the film. Everyone in the film was in prison and helped put the film together as a result it is something truly unique.

When I started REAS I didn't know what to make of it. It didn't seem like anything special. It seemed a bit odd...and then as the film went on and things happened, and we met more people I found myself falling more and more in love with the film. There was something wonderful about all the people that made me lean in. I  wanted to spend more time with them and so I backed up the film and watched it a second time. 

I'm not going to lie and say the film is perfect. It's a bit uneven here and there and I like some of the songs better than others. But the unevenness gives it the sense of life. The film feels like it is what it is a work made with love and care.

This film is a gem. It's the sort of off the beaten path film that Unseen Films was started to highlight.

If you want something off Hollywood this film is for you. 

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Brief thoughts on MY SUMMER WITH IRENE (2024) Berlin 2024


In 1997 two young girls recovering from cancer skip out on a retreat and decide to spend the summer together on an island near Sicily.

This is coming of age film  is a good look at two young woman trying to figure out the world and themselves. It's a nice low key tale about trying to figure out the future when you can't be certain that you are going to have one. 

I really liked this film a great deal. While the basic plot is one we have seen before the combination unforced turns and two characters that are not your typical screen heroines makes this something special. 

This definitely worth your time.

Society of Snow (2023)


J.A.Bayona retells the story of the crash of the plane carrying the Uruguayan rugby team in 1972. Its a harrowing tale of survival where the survivors were forced to eat the dead.

This is the third narrative version of the tale. The original version was the infamous SURVIVE which dealt with the sensational aspects of the the story. Twenty years on came ALIVE which was less sensational, but just okay. This time out we have the best version of the story. This telling makes the story both reverent and suspenseful. Watching the film what happens doesn't seem like a foregone conclusion.

I have to applaud the effects team. The the effect sequences are stunning and I can't believe that the film isn't in the running for the Oscars Visual Effects award.

At the same time while I think this is a super film, I'm kind of scratching my head about the Oscar nomination for best International Feature.. Yes the crash and the other things are nerve jangling, and they are what stay with you,  however, a number of the other films that were in the running are better. 

By reservations aside. This film is a killer thriller and worth a look.

The Visitor (2024) Berlin 2024


A naked migrant appears on the shore of the Thames in suitcase and then ends up in the home of an upper middle class family where he seduces all the members and causes havoc.

Stick a finger your eye film desperately wants to provoke a reaction, though it's derivative plotting and construction is likely to cause frustration and walk outs.  Personally I hope never to have to see the film again.

The problem with the film is it so desperately wants to show it's naughty bits both literally and figuratively (the migrant pisses in to the family's soup, there is graphic sex, and some other things) it loses track of what it wants to say. My reading of the film is that it is both an anti-immigrant screed, with multiple versions of the migrant appearing all over England doing god know what; as well as a take down of society. The problem is its as clear as mud as to what the film is really about and by the time we have the levitating figure and the up out of the wheelchair moment you've long stopped caring.

That the film doesn't work is entirely due to the filmmakers' choices.Aping bits from other, better films such as the Oscar Winning PARASITE (in addition to plot borrows the outside of the house resembles the house in that film), this is a film that is stealing ideas and sections from other better film. I mean pick any of the mini genre films where the intruder from somewhere else comes in and seduces everyone in a household and you essentially have the plot but with more unpleasant flourishes. 

Nay, not unpleasant, unnecessary. The "shocking bits" that are here serve no purpose other than garner the attention of people who want to see shocking things but are too afraid to surf the internet. (No one wants to have certain search terms in their browsing history). The (less than) shocking bits don't need to be seen but could have been implied and gotten the same reaction.

The film feels like it wants to be a mix of early John Waters and Albert Serra but falls flat. The thing is if Waters had made this it would have been fun. As for Serra, a director I dislike, I would happily see his next film rather than see this again because if nothing else you know what Serra's trying to get across.

I honestly don't know what the point of all of this was. Even allowing that so much of this film has been stolen from other films, the messages are so mixed up that I never saw a point. I can forgive pretty much anything if there is a sense that the film has point (or a real story), THE VISITOR has none of that, just a sense it wants to make me "offended"  because it can't do anything else.

(And apologies for not really discussing the politics or idea in the film but frankly, while I could guess at what is trying to be said here, it's partly not worth the effort, and mostly the film is so absent of original ideas that I am not going to waste my time filling the void the director should have filled.)

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Young Hearts (2024) Berlin 2024


YOUNG HEARTS is going to become a classic. It is a sweet and loving film about two 14 year old boys who fall in love and the complications brings. It’s a film that had me screaming “WILL YOU JUST KISS HIM” at the end.

I don’t know what to say, except I was bowled over by this film. Because the film is playing at the Berlin Film Festival I expected a heavy film with serious overtones instead of a straight forward film about confusion about a boy’s first love that just happens to be with another boy.  I wasn’t expecting a film that matter of factly dealt with the confusion that someone has, not only with someone of your own gender, but also with love in general. It’s a film that I could relate to even though I’m a straight guy.

And that is what makes this film so special, it’s not slanted entirely toward being a gay story. This is a film about being a person and having friends and family and how a first love resets your table. It’s not a film about orientation but falling for someone you really like. It’s one of the very few times where a film like this where the film isn’t slanted to be gay, but rather simply focused on the character  as a person. What I love is that the film never feels like it’s trying to make a point or be anything other than be a romance where we could lose ourselves in it – hence my yelling at the scream to kiss him and applauding when it happened.

Beautifully done both behind the camera and in front of it, this is a film that is just glorious. It is one of the best romances that I’ve seen in the last decade.

I absolutely loved this film a great deal.

Highly recommended.

The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness (2021)


This is a look at the Son of Sam case and the man who refused to let it die, Maury Terry. Terry realized that the story that the New York City Police was telling about David Berkowitz. Many of the facts that they were telling didn't line up. When Berkowitz pled guilty the case was closed. the trouble is it shouldn't have been.

I bought Terry's book THE ULTIMATE EVIL when it cam out. I followed Terry's appearances across TV and the papers. I was fascinated by the story. The story Terry was telling was chilling since it was clear that something other than what the official story had happened.

This is a great look at the case and at Terry.  While the case was the case, it's clear that Terry was a big part of it and we get to see how he fought for justice. We also get to see the terrible cost as Terry's personal life imploded, his health failed and he went a little crazy. As much as this is the story of a true crime, it's also the story of how one good man was destroyed by the darkness. It's kind of heartbreaking.

 I  really liked this film a great deal. I liked that it was more than just the story of the murder but was also an expose of obsession. (And I love that there is a coda to the tale that makes you sit up and go HELLO)

Definitely worth a look.

Thoughts on Editorial Office (2024) Berlin 2024


The story begins when a naturalist looking to study a rare groundhog. On the way to where they live he witnesses men setting fire to the forest. He photographs the culprit but when he takes the pictures to the local newspaper he finds that no one is interested. As he pushes the point he finds that as the country slides toward war society is breaking down and more interested in fake news. 

Don't let the description of the early part of the film mislead you, there is a hell of a lot more going on. I went into the film expecting one thing only to find that it was a bigger story. This is a film that is juggling a lot of balls thematically making it one of the richest and most thoughtful films of the year. I fell into the film and I fell hard.

The film looks great, and it was the images that made me fall in love with it. Watching the opening sequence I found myself getting more and more hooked. By the time the final image of the arson sequence happened I was talking out loud to the screen. I am haunted by that image.

From there the film hunkers down and heads off on a quest to explore the place of a good man in broken world.  Is there a place for them? And what happens in the real world when they try to step up. Its a trip that doesn't go as we expect and as a such opens our mind up to unexpected possibilities. I was given a lot to think about.

This is a hell of a film and a hell of a ride. You really should see this when it plays near you.

Recommended.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Searching for Augusta Savage is on American Masters Shorts


Searching for Augusta Savage is  a short film fro PBS’ American Mastersseries. It’s a look at Augusta Savage, the woman responsible for the most popular piece of art at the 1939 World’s Fair, a piece inspired by Lift Every Voice and Sing (see above). Unfortunately that piece was destroyed and 70 of 160 pieces of Savage’s work has been lost to time.  

This excellent look at the woman and her art, also ponders why institutions tend not to collect art from women and why African Americans are also not as well represented.

The film is currently streaming and be viewed by watching it below

GET GOTTI (2023)


Netflix takes us into the effort to bring down John Gotti. It charts the course of the mob leader from foot soldier to the man who would ultimately destroy the mafia by bringing attention to the organization in ways that made it easy to take them down.

This is a great companion piece to Netflix earlier FEAR CITY, this film shows in great deal how one vein man put a target on everyone in organized crime. Expanding on the earlier film's tale this gives us all the details of how the Gotti and the mob went down, once the various agencies stopped being lone wolves and worked together. 

This was another Netflix doc that I pretty much main lined. Buried with festival films I wanted something different than the pre-programmed things I was watching. Starting the series one night I found I lost two nights of watching this.

I loved this. I loved that I fell into it. Mostly I loved that the series wonderfully laid everything out in detail. Other versions of the story always felt rushed. That's not the case here, time is taken and we really get to understand what happened. 

What delight.

I can't wait to revisit.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Arc of Oblivion (2023)


ARC OF OBLIVION ponders whether anything we do or save will survive forever, or at least longer than next week. Looking at the things we produce, the things we save and what has survived in the past this film gives us a pretty off kilter look at what is going to live on after us.

Produced by Werner Herzog and containing his warped sense of reality ARC OF OBLIVION is thought provoking walk through our collective memory and why we save things. It's a film that both makes you wonder why we are trying to save anything and glad that at least someone is making the effort.

Watching the film was a bittersweet experience for me since it's clear to me that despite my pack rat tendencies everything I am saving for a rainy day will eventually fade. AT the same time the film is so full of such cool ideas that I couldn't help but get lost in it.

What a delightful head trip.

Recommended.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)


I really wish I had seen ANATOMY OF A FALL before there was any hype. Everyone at the New York Film Festival was looking forward to it and then raving about it.  It was and is the best film in many people's eyes. I couldn't fit it into my schedule, its two and a half hour run time making screenings tough to get to around other festival films. Finally, at the end of January I finally sat down and saw it... 

It's not bad but I wouldn't say it's remotely near the best films of the year.

The plot of the film concerns what happens when a man falls from a window and dies. The police think his wife killed him, she says it was either an accident or suicide, and their son is caught in the middle. She's kind of unlikable and we're given differing possibilities. Things boil in a pot for a while before get to the final fade out.

I wasn't much impressed. Don't get me it's not a bad film, but I am lost as to what I'm supposed to get out of it. Is it an intriguing thriller? Yes. Beyond that I don't have a clue. What is it that makes the film so highly touted? I don't know. Anything thematically is unremarkable, if its there at all.

Somewhere about the midway point I stopped looking for the big "ah ha" moment.

To be perfectly honest if the film wasn't up for Oscars I would have bailed, thinking my fellow writers were just feeling pretentious on the day they saw the film or maybe they were thinking their broken relationships weren't this bad, but somehow the Academy bought the BS so I decided to stay and see if there was anything there. I didn't see it.

Don't get me wrong I don't hate the film, but lord knows there are better ones out there.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

THE LEGIONNAIRE (2022) opens Friday

 


The only AfroItalian member of the police force is forced to ponder his place in the world when the police are asked to remove the squatters living in a certain building. The building is the one where he grew up and where his parents still reside. It leads to conflict not only with himself but with his brother.

Solid drama looking at questions of race and the place of immigrants with in society. While the film specifically speaks to the situation in Italy there are also threads that reach out across the globe as police officers of various races and ethnicities are being forced to participate in actions that might cause them problems with in their ethnic group.

I really liked this film a great deal so much so that if I had to quibble about anything concerning it it is the fact that it is a much too brief 80 minutes.

Recommended.

DANDELIONS (2024) SBIFF 2024


Several years in the making, this is the story of filmmaker Basil Mironer, who was born in Russia but migrated to the US when he was young with his parents. Several years ago he received a Facebook message that he had a brother and sister in Russia and that his father wasn't his biological father.  After sitting on it for a while, he talked to his American brother and the pair went to Russia, without telling their parents, to check out the story.

STOP RIGHT THERE. DON'T EVEN THINK THAT, THIS ISN'T THAT STORY.

No, seriously, don't think ahead, just watch this film on it's own terms and let it unfold in its own time.  I say that because whatever you are thinking isn't this story and the sooner you let that go the sooner you will fall in love with a film that will give you feelies and make you want to reach for the tissues.

This is one of the best films I've seen this year. It is a complete and utter surprise that I received simply because I know good people who know good films and they sent it to me and said I needed to see it. They were absolutely right I needed to see it because it just made me feel wonderful.

This is a film about family, the one you have, the one you find and the one you never knew existed. It's a film about fathers and sons. Its a film about love and life and finding out there are oceans of both that we never suspected that were out there.

I have so much I want to say about the film, but I don't want to spoil it. I say that because I sat down with a friend to watch the film a second time. They asked me what it was about and I mumbled something adding, "just watch it". When it was done, and the tears were flowing all she could say was "thank you for not spoiling it."

I'm not going to spoil it for you- I'm just going to say put this on your must see list for the year and when the film hits your neck of the woods see it.

One of the best films of 2024.

Monday, February 12, 2024

MONOLITH (2023)

 


A disgraced reporter turns to podcasting in the hope of revitalizing her career. Delving into unexplained mysteries she discovers the story of mysterious black bricks which are causing havoc in people’s lives.

I must apologize for the above description of the plot sounding like every other one you may have run across but there is only so much I can say without saying too much.

Minimalist scifi thriller is largely simply Lily Sullivan in a room alone talking on the phone or threw the computer. She is staying at her parents home while they are away and she comes into contact with people only through electronics. Yes we hear the people she is speaking with and others in videos she sees, but this film is otherwise Sullivan all the time.

Playing almost like an audio drama this is a film where the stories we hear build the suspense and the fear. Everything we are being told through the first half to the first two thirds of the film rachet up the suspense as we go down a rabbit hole and aren’t certain what we are going to find at the other end. There is a point where we really don’t now what is going to happen and we delightfully are willing to go with it anywhere.

The question with MONOLITH is going to be how are you going to feel once the film starts answering many of the questions it is raising.  Does what is in your mind match what we are being shown.  Personally I’m not sure what I think. I do know that the film so beautifully sets the table that I’m not certain the meal that follows lives up to the buildup. What happens isn’t bad, it just isn’t as good as the things that were rolling through our minds.

Disappoint in the ending aside I liked MONOLITH a great deal, and as such it’s worth a look