Sunday, May 27, 2018

The annual Open Roads Festival of New Italian Cinema opens Thursday

Open Roads is one of the great festivals in any film year. Lincoln Center’s annual survey of Italian cinema always gives me a whole bunch of cinematic delights that I would never have seen otherwise. Every year I’m always tempted to see everything because the films are always so wonderfully curated. There is almost never a bad film, only one that looks weak only when compared to the other high quality films.

This year is the same way, there is nary a bad one in the bunch, and I’ve seen pretty much everything they are running. While there is one film I’m not reviewing because I’m the wrong person to talk about it, everything else is choice and recommended. That may sound like PR BS but it’s not, I really liked everything I’ve seen.

If you need a push why not try THE PLACE, BOYS CRY or STORIES OF LOVE THAT CANNOT BELONG IN THIS WORLD-. Though see whatever interests you because there is something for everyone.

The festival starts Thursday and runs through June 6th . For more information and tickets go here.

Vault of Walt 6

Sixth time out of the gate for Jim Korkis is a delight. The Vault of Walt 6 is one of the best in the series. While it may not have what you’d think were tantalizing tidbits it has some the best and most satisfying.

As long time readers know I am a huge fan of Jim Korkis’ work (see my previous reviews here) and a huge fan of his Vault series. I instantly snap up each and volume as it comes out and I devour them as fast as I can. I do this because Korkis is one of the finest historians, of any sort, I’ve ever run across. The depth of his knowledge and understanding is limitless. When you read something by Korkis you know you aren’t getting a regurgitated fact but something more with the understanding and context of what something means. Jim is telling us this story for a reason beyond filing a page.

A case in point is the opening chapter on Abraham Lincoln. In the opening chapter get the story of Walt’s love of Lincoln which took hold in his early days when he would recite the Gettysburg Address in school on traced it how followed through his life to the point where Lincoln appeared at the World’s Fair in 1964 and eventually the Hall of Presidents. In the chapter we get this glorious sense of how Lincoln shaped Disney’s person and sense of justice.

Of course there are some other chapters which delight, such as one on Walt and Chaplin- who helped shepherd SNOW WHITE through to completion. There are bits on Disneyland in 1957 and 1967 that are just put the changes happening in the park into wonderful prospective, and a whole history of the Love Bug.

Interestingly there is also a killer chapter on Bob Clampett connection to Disney that talks of his connection to Mickey Mouse dolls and his later work on Disney spoofs. Its a fantastic chapter that talks about a lot of things including the in now infamous COAL BLACK AND DE SEBBEN DWARVES which explains the care that studios other than Disney put into their making of aniated shorts.

My  favorite bit is a tiny piece that mentions that King Kong was killed by planes with Mickey Mouse on their sides because RKO tricked the fliers of Floyd Bennet Field to fly around the EMpire State Building-and their insignia had mickey on it.

What can I say this is yet another must read for any Disney fan and more importantly any film fan.

Thank you Jim Korkis.

The book is available from Theme Park Press, Amazon and other book sellers.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Brooklyn Film Festival Starts Friday

The Brooklyn Film Festival starts Friday and it runs until June tenth. If you are in the New York Metro area and can get there I highly suggest you go.

The festival is now 21 years old and it’s been a festival that we at Unseen have been covering since we started. As a result I have a warm place in my heart for the festival. The festival was place where I did one of my first interviews when I stumbled upon Stephan Wassmann the director of SCRAPPERS and ended up having a very long conversation with him about his film in the lobby of the now gone Brooklyn Heights Cinemas.

While the festival has bounced around Brooklyn over its life time it has never stopped showing great films. This year is no exception. As this posts I’ve only seen a couple of films but what I’ve seen in choice. (Give AFGHAN CYCLES a shot if you can) I have more films slotted to see and I’m hoping to get some reports from some of Unseen’s Brooklyn correspondents. Keep an eye out for reviews closer to time.

For more information and tickets go here.

Mat Tales: True Stories from the Bizarre, Brutal World of Pro Boxing

One of the first releases from Pulp Hero Press, a blood relative of Bob McLains’s awesome Theme Park Press, Mat Tales is good little look at some of the weirder things that have happened in the boxing ring.

Compiled by Dan Sisneros, a feature writer for ProBoxing Update and a former boxing judge, the book recounts some of the things that he saw happen. We are treated to recounting of the Mitch Greene Mike Tyson street brawl, the infamous Fan Man who crashed the second Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield fight fight, Bowe's battles with Andre Golota and the blink and you'll miss it Crawford Grimsley James Thunder fight which answers the question, how short can a fight be?

Once I got past the slight disappointment that this was not going to be larger compendium of ring weirdness I fell in love with the book. As a longtime fan of the sweet science I witnessed a number of the events myself on TV. Some I remembered and some I didn’t. Once you’ve seen the Fan Man incident you can never forget it. Intrigued by many of the reports of fights I hadn’t seen I found myself bouncing back and forth to Google to try and run down video of the incidents. Talk about stretching your time with a book…. This is gets better and better the farther into the book you go.

I had a blast reading Mat Tales. While it may not click with all audiences, for anyone who has any interest in boxing the film is worth getting. It’s a great deal of fun. Best of all it makes you hope that there are going to be more volumes.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Deadly Spaghetti

Breezy pocket guide to some off the beaten path Spaghetti Westerns is an amusing fast read.

Put together by John LeMay who wrote the Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies , which I love, this small scale book is similar to the earlier volumes, however the tone is much less serious to the point that I thought the book was written by someone else. The tone of the book makes this much more like shooting the breeze than authoritative.

The collection of the films breaks each film via certain categories (Moral Message, Best Unintentional Moment, How Accurate is the Poster, The Spaghetti Code ect.) with each film ultimately rated as good bad or ugly.  Most of the real writing takes place in the Background & Commentary section where the plot is laid out in detail and Lemay discusses the films in a friendly and matter of fact way. Its the sort of discussion you'd have while sitting around with your friends.

The choice of films is interesting in that LeMay intentionally steers away fro the great films and instead focuses on 31 lesser known films many of which you're going  to find on bargain DVDs and streaming on the internet for free or next to nothing. Sure we get KEOMA and MANNAJA which are two excellent westerns, but we also get things like JOHN THE BASTARD, SHANGO or TWICE A JUDAS which are nowhere near as well known.

I had a blast reading the book, especially since the tone is loving but far from academically serious. Its a sweet little trifle of  book. If you like westerns its worth a look. Be warned though, this isn't  a reference guide but merely a friendly a pointer, which  isn't bad

Thursday, May 24, 2018

THE INTERPRETERS (2018) Telluride Mountainfilm Festival 2018

This is the story of three interpreters, Phillip Morris, Malik and Mujtaba who worked for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan and looking to find safety in America. We follow them over several years as they explain what their job was like and as they try to navigate the

This is an excellent documentary that really gives you a sense of what it is like to work with the Americans. We see exactly what that means from the good things to the dangers of simply being out with the soldiers on patrol to the fact that extremist forces have marked them for death because they choose to work for their enemy. It's a scary story that I really haven't seen so clearly and level headedly portrayed. There is no holding back and no sugar coating.

The film will also really piss you off as the men who served America are kind of left to twist in the wind as bureaucracy makes what was supposed to be a ten month fast tracked process to get them to America   taking the glacial five years as they live in constant danger of being killed for having connections to America. By the end of the film you will want to stand up and do something especially since the Trump administration has slowed the visa process to a crawl.

This film is one of the most important of the year and is a must see  because it highlights a part of our military misadventure that we don't really consider despite it being one that should be in the forefront.

Go see this film.

THE INTERPRETERS World Premieres May 26th and 28th at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival. For more information and tickets go here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

In Her Words: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, The Woman Behind Merchant Ivory June 8-13 at the Quad

The Quad celebrates two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, the woman behind Merchant Ivory's most beloved works, with a 12-film retrospective. Titles include: The Remains of the Day, A Room With A View, Shakespeare Wallah, The Guru, and more!

With James Ivory and Jhabvala's daughters Renana Jhabvala, Firoza Jhabvala, and Ava Jhabvala Wood in person at select screenings

The creative sobriquet of Merchant Ivory was coined, at the outset of what became nearly 50 years of storied moviemaking, from the surnames of director/screenwriter James Ivory and his partner and producer Ismail Merchant. Yet there would not have been Merchant Ivory as we came to know it without a third core collaborator, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who became far and away the team’s favored screenwriter. She was born in Germany of Polish and Jewish ancestry, and then raised in the UK in the 1940s; she and her husband would live both in his native India and in her New York working base. As this citizen of the world drew high praise for novels and short stories, she was asked to write the screenplay adaptation for Merchant Ivory’s first feature — and the rest is screen history. Jhabvala won two Academy Awards, for her E.M. Forster adaptations A Room with a View and Howards End, and was nominated again for The Remains of the Day. She was later made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Her screenplays cast a compassionate eye on the nuances of the human condition, quietly advocating for self-awareness while exhorting the excitement of exploration.

Image courtesy of Photofest
Autobiography of a Princess
James Ivory, 1975, UK, 60m, DCP
Le Divorce
James Ivory, 2003, U.S., 117m, 35mm
The Golden Bowl
James Ivory, 2000, U.S./France/UK, 130m, 35mm
The Guru
James Ivory, 1969, U.S./India, 112m, 35mm
Heat and Dust
James Ivory, 1983, UK, 130m, 4K DCP
Howards End
James Ivory, 1992, UK, 142m, 4K DCP
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
James Ivory, 1990, UK/U.S./Canada, 126m, 35mm
The Remains of the Day
James Ivory, 1993, UK/U.S., 134m 4K DCP
A Room With a View
James Ivory, 1984, UK, 117m, DCP
Shakespeare Wallah
James Ivory, 1965, UK/India, 120m, DCP
A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries
James Ivory, 1998, UK/France/U.S., 127m, 35mm
Surviving Picasso
James Ivory, 1996, U.S., 125m, 35mm

How Long Will I Love U: Chinese Time Travel Makes a Comeback

From 1999 to 2018, Shanghai real estate values skyrocketed. That is a reality that will jump out at an aspiring property developer like Lu Ming when he gets a chance to see the future with his own eyes. However, fate will not allow him to profit from his advance knowledge. He also happens to be rather distracted by his fellow time traveler, Gu Xiaojiao. They live in the same apartment during different time periods, but suddenly they become reluctant roommates in director-screenwriter Su Lun’s How Long Will I Love U, which opens this Friday in New York.

Gu used to live a life of privilege, but it all collapsed after the untimely death of her father. Lu has a vision of an exclusive building of loft condos, but his only potential investor is conspicuously dodgy. Both are missing something in their lives when destiny throws them together. One fateful morning, they wake up to find their apartments have been merged together. When they leave the flat, they enter either 1999 or 2018, depending on which one of them opened the front door. The entire apartment is sort of like the mailbox in Il Mare (The Lake House).

At first, there is a whole lot of bickering between the two roomies, but slowly, a sort of Tracy-and-Hepburn romantic attraction starts to percolate between them. However, viewers also start to pick up hints that there might be some connections between the time travelers even they are not aware of. Then they get a load of Lu’s future (or present) self.

How Long starts out as a mildly goofy rom-com, but it evolves into an endearingly bittersweet time travel fantasy. Although not as tragic as Il Mare (not even close), it gets pretty serious, wading into some heavy themes of redemption, free will, and identity, in a reasonably credible fashion.

Tong Liya truly lights up the screen, making us feel for the insecure Gu, even when she is at her poutiest and most immature moments. Playing Lu at both ages, Lei Jiayin is awkward and reserved to a fault, which rather better suits his more calculating older self. Still, when he allows the façade to finally crack in the third act, it constitutes a real pay-off.

Su Lun keeps the time travel fantastical enough, we can justify overlooking the logical knit-pickings. She also has enough ironic time-line-continuum stuff going on to keep science fiction fans invested. There is some fresh stuff here, but she never over-reaches her grasp. For what it’s worth, it is also somewhat encouraging to hope and assume the Communist government has slightly loosened its absurd ban on time travel narratives, judging from this film and last year’s Duckweed. Recommended for fans of Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time and the heart-tugging anime film Your Name, How Long Will I Love U opens this Friday (5/25) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

Troll Inc (2018)

Troll Inc is a film I almost passed over. The offer for access to the film came from a PR firm that normally sends me low budget horror films. Occasionally they will handle a small drama needing TLC but largely they handle horror films or thrillers or science fiction films. However occasionally they do handle documentaries, and when they are handling documentaries I always sit up and take notice because their docs are choice. I mention the fact that I almost passed the film over because with the name Troll Inc, I thought it was going to be a horror film. It wasn’t until I took one last look at the email that I realized it was a doc and as such it jumped to the top of must see pile.

Having seen Troll Inc, you should put the film on the top of you must see list.

Nominally a portrait of Andrew Auernheimer who took his skills and went from a money making mad man creating click bait to a wanted criminal and general pain in the ass for authorities with his trolling around various topics, Troll Inc is actually so much more. The film is a super look at the role of the internet and all of social media in today’s world. It’s a film that explains why and how wacked out stories trend, why people seem to be believing weird ass stories and why society seems to be careening toward a cliff of stupidity. It also reveals scary invasions of privacy that reveal we are not really safe on the internet.

I was absolutely shocked by some of the things the film reveals, particularly the wide belief that people seeing nothing wrong with fucking with people’s heads just because. I understand the need to shake people out of complacency and get an occasional laugh but things are getting out of hand people are actually buying some of this nonsense.

But there is so much more to this story and it would take me a couple hours to discuss it all. As a result I’m going to leaveit hear and simply say see this film. Its out on VOD as of today and is worth your time andmoney.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Mary Shelley opens Friday

Elle Fanning stars as the creator of Frankenstein. Covering the period from just before Mary's meeting with her future husband to just after publication of her world altering novel.

Well acted and great looking MARY SHELLEY is a film that manages to generate some emotion despite never really earning it. A kind of speed trip through Mary's life the film hits all the high points with out all of the sensationalism of say Ken Russell's GOTHIC. Indeed the trip that inspired the tale is just one in a series of events that brought the monster to life.

And that is kind of the problem with the film, it hammers away at all of the things that came together to make the novel come together. Every time something happens we get a shot of an expanding universe and a musical underline to let us know that this was one of the moments. It becomes silly after a while with the effect it takes us out of the film instead of keeping us in it.

The music by Amelia Warner is a stunner (I'm going to see about getting a copy) but director Haifaa Al-Mansour has mixed it badly so that it is often intrusive than actually part of the story.

Still despite it's problems the film does generate some emotion at the end. When Shelley returns for a salon where the book is discussed and categorically states that the book was beyond his ability to write and was the work of Mary brought tears to my eyes.

The fact that the film generates emotion despite it all makes it worth a look see

Monday, May 21, 2018

Summer 1993 (2017)

Carla Simon’s autobiographic SUMMER 1993 has the lived in quality that few memory plays ever achieve. Simon’s recounting of what happened when her parents died and she was sent to live with an aunt and uncle is nicely unsentimental. More a warts and all retelling of what happened, or as close to what a six year old would feel and experience.

The film is the story of young Frida. She is, at the start a silent cypher. Something terrible has happened around her and she is being moved around by adults. We don’t fully understand what is happening because Frida doesn’t understand. Taken in my her aunt and uncle she now finds herself with a defacto sister, three year old Anna, on whom she vents her frustration and sadness. The love hate relationship results in Frida being viewed with caution by the adults.

This is a glorious slice of life.  Even in the darkness. Simon has made a film that lives and breaths and as if she had managed to capture a moment in time and show it to us

While the film is wonderful across the board I particularly love the scenes between Frida and Anna. The moments between these two children are incredibly powerful and don’t seem scripted. Watching the pair interact is like watching real children talk to each other. How the hell Simon managed to get them to transcend what had to be a scripted exchanges to be something taken from real life perplexes me. At no moment does it feel fake.

I love this film.

I original screened this film back at the start of the year when the film was playing at some festival or another. Because I was given access to the film late I was asked to hold off reviewing the film until it was released to theaters everywhere. While I groaned and stomped a bit because I soooo wanted to talk about the film I completely understand it because the distributor wanted someone to talk about the film when it would do the most good- at the time of release.

If you love good movies go see  SUMMER 1993.

Better yet go see SUMMER 1993 so that studios know and understand that people don't just want giant blockbusters but really good films of all sizes.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

SIGN OF GLADIATOR

Head of the Roman legions allows himself to be taken prisoner by the army of Palmira. Tricking his way into meeting the queen he swears loyalty. Eventually they fall in love, complicating his mission to  crush the enemy army.

Decent sword and sandal film looks spectacular and has a good story. Better than many other similar films, this is one you'd probably watch a second time. While the film can be more than a bit soapy it remains compelling thanks to gorgeous wide screen photography.

Definitely worth a look.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Sinister Capsules CHINESE MACK and MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES

CHINESE MACK (1974) (aka Jue Zhao aka Martial Arts)
Young kid wants to learn martial arts. When he grows his family is threatened by gangsters...and you've bee  here before.  That said this is a really good martial arts film with a well told story and some killer action seuences which seem to pop up every couple of minutes. Highly recommended
(A word of warning the film does contain a dog fighting sequence about half way in)

MACISTE IN KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Good looking but rather dull film has the kingdom where King Solomon's mines is located over thrown by greedy no good nicks. In desperation word is sent to Maciste to come and help. He arrives only to fall under a mind control spell- eventually breaking free and pitching the baddies. Lots of shots that would be better placed in a Tarzan film fill the running time. Its not bad but after a good first ten of fifteen minutes it becomes dull and a tad silly.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Talking CARGO with Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke and Kristina Ceyton

With the excellent horror film CARGO opening today in theaters in Australia and on Netflix in the rest of the world I wanted to share the interview I did with directors Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke and producer Kristina Ceyton. The interview took place one day short of one month ago when the film was playing at the Tribeca Film Festival and it was one of the coolest things I’ve done. I say that because everyone were so absolutely delightful I never wanted it to end. I think you’ll like it.

Before I turn you over to the interview I have to give you a couple of quick notes.

First thing you need to know is that the video was made because my audio recorder went on the fritz as I was setting up to do the interview. As a result I had to resort to my back up and use the video recorder. When I set everything up everyone was in the frame and then everyone shifted in their seats and Ben and Kristina drifted out of the frame. It really doesn’t make a great deal of difference since we simply talk. Additionally this is everything, unedited from start to finish

The other thing you need to know is that this is a VERY spoiler filled discussion. From the second question on we are talking about what happens, who lives and who dies and all sorts of other things relating to the film. If you don’t want to know then do not watch this video until after you see the film. If you haven’t seen the film then go watch it then come back and watch this.

Lastly, this is a spoiler filled discussion. I know I just said it but I don’t want to be accused of ruining things if you haven’t seen it.

Escorts (2015)


British documentary about two escorts and their lives.

Okay film looks at making money from sex and fantasy in the modern world. While for adults it's not really purient and kind of makes the life, though not the money as something that just sort of is. I was five minutes in and was like "oh, thats it then?" and it kind of stayed in one place emotionally and went nowhere.

 Not bad but nothing special-which weirdly may mean it is something special- I'm not sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Don't forget the Brooklyn Film Festival animated films

Just a quick note on the animation at the Brooklyn Film Festival- there is a lot of really good stuff playing so if you like animation buy a ticket and take the ride.

You’ll forgive me for not writing on them in details simply because many of the films are so short that to do so would ruin the small gems. I do want to put GENTLE MENTALS at the top of your list. It’s a stunning little film about damaged animals and will make you laugh out loud.

Also recommended is HURRY UP, HEROLD! is a about a superhero over coming 13 obstaces to get a birthday gift home for his daughter, which is ultimately charming , and PRESCHOOL POETRY which has some killer animation to go along with pre-schoolers poetry

For more information and tickets go here

First Reformed opens Friday

Just a note or two at the start before I turn you over to the repost of my review 

This is the piece I wrote after the film World Premiered as a sneak preview at the New York Film Festival last October. It is sparse with details since it was the first time anyone had seen it and I don't want to spoil anything just yet.

It was written when my thoughts, passion and enthusiasm were in a fugue state after seeing it. The piece reflects that and I haven't tried to change it.

Paul Schrader sneak previewed his FIRST REFORMED at the New York Film Festival some seven months before it's US release- and the result was screening that ended with gasps, applause and the desire to spend the next two weeks talking about the film.

The film, which concerns a minister in a historic church in Upstate New York who has a crisis of faith and has to wrestle with demons, is a messy masterpiece. The film is clearly Schrader firing on all cylinders and making the film he wanted to make. It is deep discussion on the nature of faith, belief and what God wants from a man who has been pondering the question for the better part of the last half century.

If the film looks and sounds familiar it is because Schrader is in a way summing up. Openly pulling from a variety of sources and filmmaker Schrader is filtering everything he has wanted to say about all of the film's themes in one package. Schrader indicated at the post screening Q&A that a conversation with Pawel Pawlikowski, the director of IDA, that now was the time to make the film on faith that he always wanted to and he attacked it with wild abandon.

Schrader has made a one of a kind film. It's a film that you either go with, especially in the third act or you don't. Schrader is challenging us to go with him no matter how silly a couple of scenes are. He seems to know that not everyone will go with him but he is betting most will. There were some laughs at a couple of things but in the end the film was met with thunderous applause.

Schrader wonderfully upsets expectations. Where he goes and why is rarely where we expect. I don't think anyone was expecting the ending or the journey of how we get there. Schrader subverts our notions of storytelling and forces us to engage or "die".

Talking after the film I said this was the ballsiest film at the New York Film Festival this year and Nora Mandel suggested THE SQUARE and it's off beat scenes might, but I don't think so. To me THE SQUARE is a very messy and unfocused button pusher. Scenes like the dinner party, the You Tube video or the Tourettes while effective are much too calculating. Director Ruben Ostland is simply trying to provoke a reaction in scenes which aren't fully connected to the narrative. He wants the audience to react. In FIRST REFORMED Paul Schrader wants the audience to think. He is telling you a tightly wound story and he is doing it his way. He is well aware the film isn't going to work for everyone but he won't change his story to win people over.

I need to see the film again, preferably right before a dinner with the entire Unseen Films family because I want to see and hear the discussions that result. One of the first things Paul Shcrader said was that the film was going to be the subject of years of college papers- oh hell yea.People will be talking about this for years.

I am floored. It is a film that you can not ignore. It is a film you must see and must engage with.

I have no idea what anyone will think of the film but I know it will force you to react in ways you won't expect. I have no idea how it will play the second time but I can't wait to see what that is. (The fact that is going to provoke you to think and react makes it a film that I will treasure)

(Apropos of nothing - pair this with Scorsese's SILENCE for a really interesting double feature)

This was one of the coolest screening I've ever attended because just being part of the audience which had no expectations and got to react to the film blindly was just magical.

One of the best film at this year's New York Film Festival and of 2017.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Champion: Don Lee Arm-Wrestles

It takes a brave man to star in an arm-wrestling movie after the face-plant that was Over the Top. Ladies and gentlemen, that man is Don Lee (Ma Dong-seok). He is the one who brawled his way through a train car of zombies in Train to Busan. Believe it or not, his character even references the notorious Sylvester Stallone bomb as his inspiration. Yet, Lee manages to surpass his role model in Kim Yong-wan’s unabashedly earnest family sports drama Champion, which opens this Friday in New York.

“Mark” Baek Seung-min is big, but shy. He had a hard time of things during his formative years, so it is understandable. His desperately poor Korean mother gave him up for adoption, but his American foster parents died shortly after his arrival in the States, leaving him essentially on his own. Inspired by Over the Top, arm-wrestling became his only passion, but his professional career was cut short in America by a dubious scandal. His only friend, the sleazy (but possibly decent way deep down) Jin-ki has lured him back to Korea with the promise of managing his professional comeback.

To sweeten the deal, Jin-ki also offers up the address of Baek’s birth-mother, but the arm-wrestler soon learns she has recently passed away from cancer. However, he discovers he has a sister (Su-jin), a niece, and a nephew he never knew of. Suddenly, they have someone to chase away the mobbed-up bill collectors and fix things around the apartment, while Baek finally starts to feel a sense of belonging. Of course, his refusal to throw matches at the behest of a crooked sponsor will probably lead to trouble down the line, especially when the scummy sports bettors recruit Punch, a steroid-juicing, psychotic former contender to be their standard bearer, straight out of prison.

Lee, who was born in Korea, but grew up in America, graduating from Columbia State University, clearly understands where his character is coming from. He is acutely earnest as Baek, but he also looks like he could rip Stallone’s arm off. It is easy to see why he has already reached a significant level of stardom in Korea and is poised to do the same internationally when you see him interacting with Ok Ye-rin and Choi Seung-hoon, the young, ridiculously cute thesps playing his niece and nephew. The fact that he is not dramatically up-staged by them, pretty much says it all.

Lee also shares some nice chemistry with Han Ye-ri’s Su-jin and turns some rewarding third act scenes with Kwon Yool’s heretofore annoying Jin-ki. Unfortunately, Yang Hyun-min and Lee Kyoo-ho make rather generic villains, who really are not very enterprising. Plus, Kim’s screenplay manufactures a lot of bogus drama that starts to try our patience. Yet, we can’t help rooting for Baek and his potential new family, because they all look so good together.

So, to recap, if you need a sensitive hulk, Don Lee is your man. As good old Lincoln Hawk says: “The world meets nobody halfway. When you want something, you gotta take it.” To that end, Lee carries this film and thereby grabs leading man status. Nobody should have any illusions—Champion is shamelessly manipulative and sentimental, but it is an indomitable crowd pleaser—with distinctly Korean sensibilities. Recommended for fans of Don Lee and family-friendly triumph-over-adversity sports movies, Champion opens this Friday (5/18) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

A couple of quick words on End Trip (2018) Cannes 2018

Demented ride share driver is actually a serial killer in disguise.

While not breaking any new ground,Aaron Jay Rome's thriller is much better than you'd expect. Despite doing everything you'd expect it to the film manages to over come a sense of dejavu thanks to Rome's skill as a filmmaker. While very much a horror film, the film looks at times more like a film noir offshoot of Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER with a frequent use of style that makes the film worth seeing.

What I like abut END TRIP is that I actually wanted to see where this goes. More often then not with many recent inde- horror films I have to force myself to stay to the end. Sometimes I make and sometimes I don't.  With END TRIP I stayed to the end because I genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen. Sure I had an idea or two but at the same time I still cared enough to find out. That may sound like faint praise, and something that is going to make the filmmakers pull their hair out, but understand the ability to say this is a good and solid little film is a triumph. The fact that I can simply say "give the film a go it's good from start to finish" is actually better than my saying well this bit is good but the rest is crap.  Rome and his fellow filmmakers have made a film that entertains from beginning to end.

Worth a shot for anyone who likes small scale thrillers with lots of style.

DIRTY BOOKS (2016) and WHAT JACK BUILT (2015)

DIRTY BOOKS
Threatened  with the shut down of the school newspaper as a physical publication David seeks out a story to keep it alive, only he has to manufacture one.

Good little comedy hinges on whether how you feel toward David. A well meaning but obnoxious twit I really wanted to smack him around since his desire to keep the paper going as a physical entity  results in him being a little too insane, especially since he does his writing on a computer.

An amusing trifle.

WHAT JACK BUILT
Good little film is either too long for what it is or a proof of concept for a longer film that probably would kick serious ass.

The plot of the film has Jack building something in his basement that has something to do with what is in the woods. I can't say more since the film is not really specific.

While I like what is here, I felt that this either disappointed me for being a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing as the short, or its a really cool appetizer for a feature. For some reason I'd be much happier if this was supposed to be going somewhere, even if I never got to see the where than if this was all there is.

In either case this is worth a look.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Island Zero (2017)

On an island off the coast of Maine there is a sudden change for the worst. The fish are suddenly gone and the ferry to the mainland has stopped running. No one is able to contact the outside world.  People who try to make their own way off the island either disappear or turn up dead. Something is killing, and seemingly devouring every living thing.

Low key horror film doesn't show much but has a great deal of tension as we and the characters, struggle to figure out what is going on.  The keeping the reveals to a minimum works wonders since by not seeing the creatures or the violence so we have to fill in the gaps with our own imaginations which creates things probably more terrifying than the filmmakers could have come up with. This is a film where, for the most part less is more.

While I recommend ISLAND ZERO and I find that I like the film more than I love it. Its not so much that there is anything wrong with the film on it's own terms it's more there is a point approaching the final third where the momentum should be kicking it to take it in high gear to the end and the film misses the optimal window and the film deflates slightly as the tightly wound tension is released. We are still engaged but not quite as scared as we should be.

Regardless of my quibble ISLAND ZERO is worth a look especially if you like suggestion and less graphic horror films.

ISLAND ZERO is being released on VOD nationwide by Freestyle Releasing today

A few brief words on ASTRO (2018) Cannes 2018

Super rich billionaire who has his own space ships  brings an alien to earth and causes all sorts of problems.

Ultra low budget science fiction film feel like a weird mash up of some of the ultra inde sci-fi films of the 70's and 80's  mixed with the recent crop of low budget indes to create a film that is more interesting for what it's trying to do rather than what it really is. 

The problems being that the ultra low budget results in an uneven cast as well as an uneven look as some bits look funded and other bits look anemic. While I always try not to review the budget, here it's hard not to since sadly it's hard not to think "if only..." on more than a couple of occasions.

The other problem is the film is much too long at 105 minutes, and while it does it allow things not to be rushed, it also results in a frequent feeling that they should just get on with it.

While I can't say I'm a fan, I like the film enough that I am mentioning it here at Unseen Films instead of letting it disappear unnoted.

Worth a look for forgiving science fiction fans

Monday, May 14, 2018

Have Sword, Will Travel Sun May 27, 1.00pm at the Quad

For this month's edition of our ongoing series co-presented and programmed by the New York Asian Film Festival, we present Chang Cheh's eponymous Have Sword, Will Travel followed by Lu Chun-ku's surreal wuxia classic Bastard Swordsman (aka Reincarnate Swordsman)


Have Sword, Will Travel
Chang Cheh, 1969, Hong Kong, 101m, DCP
A young couple, both master bodyguards, escort a shipment of silver when they encounter a mysterious vagabond. Intrigue ensues, leading to a cavalcade of martial arts dynamics in this Shaw Brothers wuxia Western.

In Mandarin with English subtitles

Don't miss our upcoming Chang Cheh retrospective, starting May 23!

Followed by...


Bastard Swordsman (aka Reincarnate Swordsman)
Lu Chun-ku, 1983, Hong Kong, 89m, 35mm
While the head of the Wu Tang tries to master the “Silkworm” sword style, lowly clan member Yen is mocked and barred from learning martial arts. But a mysterious masked man teaches him in secret until he rises to turn the tables on the perpetrators of treachery in this surreal, brain-melting wuxia classic.

In Cantonese with English subtitles

Saving Brinton (2017) opens Friday

When Indiana Brinton passed away all of the material, books, posters and movies that she had collected over the years was taken by her executor who had hoped to sort out its historical significance. It seems she and her husband has spent decades touring the Midwest of America screening films in the true infancy of motion pictures. What she left behind was a vast collection that related to film prior to 1910. When the executor died he still had the collection which was taken over by Michael Zahs who kind of sat on the material for another 30 years. With the need for room Zahs turned the material over to the University of Iowa’s Special Collection and wondrous things were discovered.

SAVING BRINTON is a curate's egg of a film. On one hand it is a beautifully rendered portrait of Michael Zahs who happened upon the belongings of the Brintons, but on the other hand the film doesn’t show us a hell of a lot of what was in the collection. I absolutely loved the film but was left kind of unsatisfied the film.

As a film on its own terms it’s a kick ass film. A wonderful portrait of Zahs, a gregarious raconteur with a drive to collect, the film is a film fans delight. Watching Zahs talk about the collection and its history is just damn awesome. As a film lover and a man with celluloid in my veins I ate up everything that was on screen. This is the sort of a tale that film fans always talk about. I mean we watch the discovery and restoration of a lost George Melies film, which is just incredibly cool. I mean it even impressed the legendary film historian Serge Bromberg who is seen being physically moved by the discovery. If you love film this film will make you want to dive into the collection with wild abandon to see what else is there...

Which brings me to the problem with the film, we don’t see a hell of a lot of the collection. We see some posters, some photos, a projector and a couple of clips. We are not allowed to really wade into more of the material. We see the covers of the various books, catalogs and pamphlets but we don’t see inside them. There are posters but we only get a look at a few. And then there are the films which are discussed as being ripe with possibilities, but what are they exactly? We really don’t know. While we get to see the missing Melies, we don’t really see anything else, worse I don’t think we’re even told much, if anything about, any other films other than in passing. . There is a moment where a historian describes the find as not just finding gold on a shipwreck, but also the bills of lading and all of the backstory it as well. The problem is we see one bar of gold and none of the backstory

And before anyone points out that the condition of the items and the films in the collection I have to say that know some stuff is in rough shape. At the same time we should have been shown as much of the collection as possible and not just followed Zahs around. He’s an interesting guy but how many times do we need to see him eating at a social?

Of course I’m nitpicking. I mean I love the film, but there was this point about an hour in when I suddenly realized that the one thing I wanted, which was to see more of the collection, wasn’t going to happen and I kind of deflated. I wanted to feel like Serge Bromberg and look at these wondrous things but we didn’t get the chance.

Despit my reservations SAVING BRINTON is a must, more so if you’re like me and bleed moving images.

Total Performance (2015)

Cori is an actress who works for a company that hires actors and actresses out to act as verbal sparring dummies for people who are going to have  to go into difficult situations.However complications arise...

Really good little short score bonus points for taking things into an unexpected and natural direction. I didn't really see how this was going to go with the film, which is often the case but where many short filmmmakers create turns for effect and to be noticed,  writer director Sean Meehan instead makes the flow of the story feel natural.

Bravo.

I really liked this film a great deal and recommend it if you can track it down.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Expect the Unexpected (1998)

Johnnie To and his partner in madness Ka-Fai Wai produced this totally insane riff on relationship dramas and brutal cops and robbers films.

When a jewelry store robbery goes bad this accidentally puts the police on the trail of a bunch of psycho killers. Meanwhile the various police officers attempt to work out affairs of their heart.

The title says it all, nothing in this film is expected. Every plot turn is completely and utterly out of  the left field from two blocks over. Ten minutes in as the ugly violence switched gears to a lyric romance I was left stunned. There was no way to know how this would go and in a lot of ways we are better for it. We are forced to pay attention because not to  could mean ending up hopelessly lost. The most amazing thing is it all feels organic- nothing is forced- even the "what in the holy F#$@!!!!" ending strangely feels right.

I don't dare say anything else because I don't ant you to expect anything. (Though I will say there is nothing not real)

Wow. Wow and wow.

Track this one down.

Here Lies Joe (2016)

Joe is a suicidal man who meets a young woman at a support group who changes the way he sees life.

Nice little short over comes it's slight over length by kicking it on every other level. From the casting to the look, to the score this film is top notch. Its the sort of film that  should open doors for writer/director Mark Battle because its clear from this film that he has an voice we need to hear in a feature project or two.

The best thing I can say about Mr Battle's talent is HERE LIES JOE has me fishing around for his other films.

Recommended

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Brief thoughts on Love Always, Mom (2018) Bentonville Film Festival

Tricia Russo and Craig E. Shapiro's LOVE ALWAYS,MOM charts the course of Russo's path to motherhood. Diagnosed with breast cancer Russo has to put off having children because she needs to fight the illness. However when the disease spreads she and her husband have to decide if it's worth the risk of her going off the chemo to harvest her eggs so that a surrogate can carry their child.

Made up of footage shot during Russo's struggle, the film has a very real "you are there" vibe because we really are there. We are so much in the thick of things that you begin to feel as though everyone is part of our family.  There are very few taking heads, simply live as lived, with the result that the film trumps every other similar film I've run across.

Forgive me for not going into too much discussion,but this is a hard film to critique. Not because it's bad but rather it's life lived and it's nigh impossible to criticize someone's life lived. This is a film more about being in the moment with the people on the screen than it is about being in a movie, which is what a documentary should be about.

LOVE ALWAYS, MOM is going to make you feel good. It is a film about striving to get what you want and some how finding away. As Russo says never give up, just keep following plan B or D  or Z or whatever will get you closer to your goal.

While this wouldn't have been my first choice of a film, the subject is not something I'm really interested in, it is a film that I really liked a great deal once I sat down to see it.

While the Bentonville Film Festival screenings are done, the film is worth seeing and very recommended when it hits the next bunch of festivals and it's eventual theatrical run.

The Sadist (2015)

When I spoke to director Jerimiah Kipp in connection with his film THE DAYS GOD SLEPT we discussed his work on the film THE SADIST. Going into the project as a gun for hire he brought along his crew which included cinematographer/editor Dominick Sivilli and a great enthusiasm for the project. However despite a final cut clause in his contract the film was pulled from him just as he had finished the first cut and he was shut out of the creative process. He  said that he bore the producers no ill will and had been directing distributors toward them in the hope of getting the film released.

When we spoke in 2013 Kipp had no idea when the film would see a release, despite being shot in 2010. Having fallen in love with Kipp's short horror films I kept an eye out for some sign of his first feature horror film. Despite a couple years of looking I failed to find anything and it was only after seeing word on his latest film BLAKE WAKE, that I discovered that THE SADIST had been released in 2015 and was on Amazon Prime.

The plot of the film has a young man and his uncle go off o their annual hunting trip. However things turn bad when an escaped maniac (Tom Savini) decides to play a game of cat and mouse with them.

I'm of several minds concerning THE SADIST. Containing some truly great sequences and a great performance by Savini, the film never quite hangs together.  I suspect a large portion of the problem is due to the film being pulled from Kipp and Sivilli who based on their other work and the sequences that work here knew what they were doing. almost all of the sequences with Savini shine and make what should have been a standard issue madman on the loose film something more. Once we get outside of those sequences things become uneven as performances seem to go up and down depending on the take that the producers chose to use. I say this because there are scenes where some of the actors who are perfectly fine everywhere else suddenly are just bad as if they couldn't pick the right take.

On the other hand the Savini sequences are masterful,as you would expect from Kipp, who is in my opinion one of the greatest horror directors working today. There is an almost tactile quality to the fear such as the opening sequence when Savini walks into a barn and does nasty things with a pitchfork.  You can feel his delight at the pain he is inflicting and it is frightening. Later on as the battle between Savini and the others escalates you slip toward the edge of your seat simply because there is great filmmaking afoot.

Is THE SADIST worth watching? Maybe. Its definitely more of interest as a project that might have been had it not been interfered with than as a wholly successful film.

Friday, May 11, 2018

FANTASPOA ANNOUNCES FINAL WAVE OF 2018 FILM SELECTIONS, EVENTS, AND MARKET PROJECTS

Porto Alegre, Brazil - May 11, 2018 - Brazil's Fantaspoa, the largest genre film festival in Latin America, is proud to reveal the final lineup for their upcoming fourteenth edition, running from May 17th through June 3rd. In addition to its numerous film premieres, the celebrated genre festival also delighted to announce its special events and project selections for its inaugural production market, FantasMercado.
Eighteen additional Fantaspoa 2018 features are being announced today, which will screen alongside the 37 previously-announced feature films. Titles announced in our previous two waves include Vampire Clay (Sôichi Umezawa, Japan), The Endless (Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, U.S.), The Ranger (Jenn Wexler, U.S.), Ederlezi Rising (Lazar Bodroza, Serbia), Mohawk (Ted Geoghegan, U.S.), Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, U.K./U.S.), and Les Garçons Sauvages (Bertrand Mandico, France).

The final round of fantastic features selected for Fantaspoa 2018 are:
27: El club de los malditos (Nicanor Loreti, Argentina) - Brazilian Premiere
All You Can Eat Buddha (Ian Lagarde, Canada/Cuba) - Brazilian Premiere
Black Hollow Cage (Sadrac González-Perellón, Spain) - Latin American Premeire
The Crescent (Seth A. Smith, Canada) - Latin American Premiere
Four Hands (Oliver Kienle, Germany) - Latin American Premiere
Framed (Marc Martínez Jordán, Spain) - Latin American Premiere
Funôhan (Kôji Shiraishi, Japan) - Latin American Premiere
Hagazussa (Lukas Feigelfeld, Germany/Austria) - Latin American Premiere
Hostile (Mathieu Turi, France) - Brazilian Premiere
Kyrsyä - Tuftland (Roope Olenius, Finland) - Latin American Premiere
The Laplace’s Demon (Giordano Giulivi, Italy) - Latin American Premiere
The Man with the Magic Box (Bodo Kox, Poland/Italy) - Latin American Premiere
One Cut of the Dead (Shin'ichirô Ueda, Japan) - Latin American Premiere
Prodigy (Alex Haughey and Brian Vidal, U.S.) - Brazillian Premiere
Rabbit (Luke Shanahan, Australia) - Latin American Premiere
Sanî/32 (Kazuya Shiraishi, Japan) - Latin American Premiere
Trauma (Lucio A. Rojas, Chile) - Brazillian Premiere
Trench 11 (Leo Scherman, Canada) - Latin American Premiere
In addition to its 100+ features and shorts, Fantaspoa 2018 will host nine masterclasses taught by - among others - Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, Mick Garris, William Lustig, Elina Löwensohn, Jenn Wexler, and Pedro Rivero.
Fantaspoa’s inaugural production market, FantasMercado, is proud to announce its selected projects, which showcase the best and brightest in upcoming Latin American genre talent. They are A Casa do Girassol Vermelho (Eder Santos, Brazil), Bestiario (Giovanni Longo, Chile), Corpo Seco (Rodrigo Aragão, Brazil), Cosa e Mandinga (Fabian Forte, Argentina), El Muglúr (Lucila Las Heras, Argentina), La Vuelta del Malón (Laura Casabé, Argentina),Marlon Brando, Whiskey, Zumbis e Outros Apocalipses (Paulo Biscaia Filho, Brazil), Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas (Rodrigo John, Brazil), MÍA(Daniel Rodríguez Risco, Peru), Nebular (Iuri Minfroy, Brazil), Nocturna (Gonzalo Calzada, Argentina), O Braço (Ian Abé Santiago Maffioletti and Jhésus Tribuzi Lula, Brazil), Sangre Vurdalak (Santiago Fernandez Calvete, Argentina), Skull - A Máscara de Anhangá (Kapel Furman, Brazil), and Snatch My Eyes (Damian Rugna, Argentina).
The festival will kick off with an opulent Opening Night Party inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut, complete with ornate masks. Its epic Closing Night Event will ferry partygoers out onto the Guaiba River, the breathtaking, massive waterway that bestows the "Port" on the beautiful city of Porto Alegre.

For more information, please visit:
The festival’s 2018 trailer is available at
www.youtube.com/watch?v=AhRp-qXUyZE

Hammer's House of Horror Part I: The Classic Years 1956–1967 at the Quad

May 30 - June 19


It's a chilling season at the Quad! Brace yourself for mummies, vampires, werewolves, and more with our extensive two-part retrospective celebrating Britain's genre studio powerhouse, Hammer Films

With 32 titles in the first installment (22 on 35mm), including Frankenstein Created Woman, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, and The Quatermass Experiment

Look forward to Part II (1967-76) this July, with highlights including: Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde, and The Vampire Lovers

Throughout film history, many countries have had their own point-of-pride movie studios; Britain can claim several, whether as backlots or sites of creative capital. In Hammer Films, a genre-oriented counterpart to Ealing Films, the UK could boast of one with all that and more; Hammer’s output in the second half of the 20th century sent aesthetic and sensory frissons throughout the nation while influencing pop culture and world cinema. Although synonymous with horror, the Hammer library was stocked from the beginning with films of all kinds. Founded in November 1934 as Hammer Film Productions and based in London, the studio came out of the gate with dramas and then specialized in “B” pictures and homegrown tales, pausing only for WWII. A turning point came in the mid-1950s with a move into genre fare with an accent on the Gothic, and this first crop of titles in the Quad’s extensive two-part Hammer retrospective demonstrates that—as Universal Pictures had found in the 1930s—famous monsters were a good (and generally inexpensive) way to expand your industry footprint. Hammer finally made its first color movie in 1954; a good thing, too, since what would the next quarter-century of movies have been like without all that scarlet sanguinary screen imagery?

"If we saw the logo of Hammer Films, we knew it was a very special picture. We knew it was a certain kind of film. A surprising experience, usually—and shocking." — Martin Scorsese

The Abominable Snowman
Val Guest, 1957, UK, 91m, 35mm

The Brides of Dracula
Terence Fisher, 1960, UK, 85m, 35mm

The Camp on Blood Island
Val Guest, 1958, UK, 82m, 35mm

Cash on Demand
Quentin Lawrence, 1961, UK, 89m, 35mm

The Curse of Frankenstein
Terence Fisher, 1957, UK, 83m, 35mm

The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
Michael Carreras, 1964, UK, 81m, 35mm

The Curse of the Werewolf
Terence Fisher, 1961, UK, 93m, DCP

The Damned (aka These Are the Damned)
Joseph Losey, 1962, UK, 96m, DCP

The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devil's Bride)
Terence Fisher, 1968, UK, 95m, 16mm

Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Terence Fisher, 1966, UK, 90m, 35mm

The Evil of Frankenstein
Freddie Francis, 1964, UK, 84m, 16mm

Fanatic (aka Die! Die! My Darling)
Silvio Narizzano, 1965, UK, 97m, 35mm

Frankenstein Created Woman
Terence Fisher, 1967, UK, 92m, 35mm

The Gorgon
Terence Fisher, 1964, UK, 83m, DCP

Horror of Dracula
Terence Fisher, 1958, UK, 82m, 35mm

The Hound of the Baskervilles
Terence Fisher, 1959, UK, 87m, 16mm

Hysteria
Freddie Francis, 1965, UK, 85m, 16mm

The Mummy
Terence Fisher, 1959, UK, 88m, 35mm

The Nanny
Ian Holt, 1965, UK, 93m, 16mm

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger
Cyril Frankel, 1960, UK, 91m, 35mm

One Million Years B.C.
Don Chaffey, 1966, UK, 100m, DCP

The Phantom of the Opera
Terence Fisher, 1962, UK, 84m, 35mm

The Pirates of Blood River
John Gilling, 1962, UK, 87m, 35mm

Quatermass and the Pit (aka Five Million Years to Earth)
Roy Ward Baker, 1967, UK, 98m, 35mm

The Quatermass Experiment
Val Guest, 1955, UK, 82m, 35mm

Rasputin: The Mad Monk
Don Sharp, 1966, UK, 92m, 35mm

The Revenge of Frankenstein
Terence Fisher, 1958, UK, 91m, 35mm

The Stranglers of Bombay
Terence Fisher, 1959, UK, 80m, 35mm

Ten Seconds to Hell
Robert Aldrich, 1959, UK/US/West Germany, 93m, 35mm

The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll
Terence Fisher, 1960, UK, 88m, 35mm

X—The Unknown
Leslie Norman, 1956, UK, 81m, 16mm

Yesterday's Enemy
Val Guest, 1959, UK, 95m, 35mm

Honor List (2018)

Four long time friends head into high school with hopes and dreams of a glorious future together, however by senior year the friendships are broken. When one of their group dies, the remaining trio are tasked with fulfilling a bucket list they had made when they were freshmen.

With a cast of actors seemingly five years too old for their roles HONOR LIST is never really believable. It begins with the girls as freshmen driving at night to find a long past sunset. I at first thought they were college freshmen but, no they are in high school and I just shook my head. There was a lot of head shaking and hand wringing as the turn of events seemed to be springing from a writer's head instead of anything approaching life.

I blame the film's failure on the writing. The script seems to have been written so as to hit all of the high points that came out of a story conference. We need a culturally diverse group, don't forget to make one girl heavy. Lets hit all the hot topic issues like sex and drinking.  Unfortunately in the process we lost things like any sense of the characters or events beyond the edge of the screen. There is nothing here but what we see on the screen with no real hint of anything beyond that.

I simply never really cared.

I suspect that perhaps on it's own terms this film might be of interest for someone very undemanding but as it stands now it's not really worth the effort.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Lu Over The Wall hits theaters Friday

With LU OVER THE WALL opening Friday here is the part of my report on the New York International Children's Film Festival Opening Night where I reviewed the film.


The film follows Kai, a depressed teen who relatively recently moved with his dad to his family's home town by the sea. Kai tinkers with music with his computer and when his friends find out they try to get him into their band. At the same time the town is supposedly the home waters for the mer-people. Many in the town don't believe they exist and those that do think they are evil and eat humans. However since they like music a mermaid named Lu comes into contact with Kai and his friends thus causing all sorts of complications as a result.

Joyous, wonderful and happy, LU OVER THE WALL is frequently one of the most viscerally emotional films you will ever see. In simpler terms it will move you to tears for no determinable reason other than it is just so damn cool.

I'm still processing it.

It is one of a kind and totally unique. The only way I can describe it is as if Hiyao Miyazaki went to Warner Brothers to make Ponyo with Tex Avery and Chuck Jones while John K offered suggestions while scoring it to an infectious J-Pop score that is perfectly translated in the English dub. That's not really what it is but it will put you in the ball park.

Animation style shifts depending on the moment.Masaaki Yuasa, like in his other films, isn't teathered to any one style and simply animates to what the moment needs. He then ties his images to one of the most perfect scores around. The resulting marriage of image and sound over rides the logic centers of the brain and tickles the heart strings.

I mention over riding the logic centers because to be quite honest the plot of the film is often messy. Clearly there is internal logic, it's just not always clear- which in this case is fine because the sound and image and characters carry the day.

I have no idea what to say other than I was moved to tears several times. Don't ask me why or how - I don't know. All I know is I was and am delighted it happened.

I am intentionally not telling you about the wonders contained in the film because you have to see them for yourself- though I will give you a clue and saw mer-dogs.

WOW and WOW.

I wish I had known they were playing this in English because I would have brought my niece who would have gone crazy for it.

This is a must see...and one you want to stay through the credits since there are little bits of animation that delight all through it with a parting shot that brought an audible sigh to those in the auditorium.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Brooklyn Film Festival Announces Lineup for 2018 Edition: THRESHOLD


Brooklyn, NY (May 9, 2018) - Bad times make great art, so this year’s Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF) should be amazing! And so BFF announces today the film lineup for its 21st edition: THRESHOLD. Like an aircraft entering the threshold on runway “21,” BFF takes off on Friday, June 1st at returning venue: Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg. Over the course of the 10-day festival, BFF proudly presents film programs at Wythe Hotel, nearby returning venue Windmill Studios in Greenpoint, and five more screening venues throughout Brooklyn. BFF will announce its opening night film soon. Festival tickets go on sale on Monday, May 14, 2018, at http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/tickets/.

“Division, bigotry, the wall, Trump. WTF? But luckily, some great things usually come from bad times,” said Brooklyn Film Festival Executive Director Marco Ursino. “The Spanish Civil War gave us the Guernica; the NYC defaults in the 70’s gave us the best graffiti in the world. Even the Great Depression gave us swing dancing. It doesn’t matter how bad it looks, art always wins. In the middle of this undeniably appalling time in American history, Brooklyn Film Festival aims to amplify the voices of its films and filmmakers by shedding light, spreading love and celebrating diversity.”
This year’s festival is comprised of approximately 125 features and shorts from 30 countries spread over all continents, except Antarctica. The lineup includes 19 world premieres, 21 USA bows, 37 east coast debuts and 30 first-time screenings in NYC.  In addition to the feature narratives and documentary films highlighted in this release, the festival will present 36 short narrative films, 16 short documentary films, 25 animated films and 20 experimental films.
The festival will run from June 1 through June 10 at two main venues: Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg and Windmill Studios in Greenpoint. Additional programming will be presented on June 5 at Syndicated in Bushwick and on June 8 at UnionDocs in Williamsburg. On June 6 and 9, BFF will present a total of five shows at Made in NY Media Center by IFP in Dumbo, where it will also present the 14th annual kidsfilmfest on June 2.
On June 4, BFF welcomes CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism with a block of short documentaries at the Alamo Theater in downtown Brooklyn. The evening starts at 6pm with a special presentation and mixer on the Alamo’s rooftop deck for filmmakers and audience members interested in learning more about the documentary program at CUNY.  Showtime starts at 8:30 pm with a special screening of student work from CUNY followed by the block of short documentaries curated by BFF Short Doc Programmer Brandon Harrison. Stick around after the screening for the presentation of the inaugural CUNY Best Short Doc Award.
On June 9, the 7th annual BFF Exchange (BFFX) program will be hosted at Kickstarter in Greenpoint. Join us for an afternoon of informative and interesting panels of, by and for filmmakers. We’ll close out the afternoon with a happy hour sponsored by Brooklyn’s own Sixpoint Brewery. This year, we’ll have two discussion panels, Women Working "Below the Line” and Film Finance in the US and Latin America. We’re also happy to continue our “Lunching with Lawyers” session and our ever-popular BFFX documentary pitch session.  And in an effort to bridge the city of Brooklyn with Mexico, BFFX is proud to feature as special guest Mexico City’s film commissioner Mauricio Aguinaco. All BFFX events are free of charge, but require an RSVP at http://bit.ly/2KDW70o.
This year, BFF features a number of special events and networking parties. A big indoor/outdoor party will follow the screenings at Wythe Hotel on June 1 (Opening Night) sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery and Line 39 wine. On Saturday June 2, an intimate party will be organized at the 184 Kent complex from 6-9pm with complimentary drinks. On June 6 in between screenings, a reception will be organized at Made in NY Media Center by IFP with complimentary drinks. On June 7, a filmmaker reception will be held at the G-Star Raw store in Williamsburg from 7-9:30pm with complimentary drinks and appetizers. And an after-party will be held at Loosie Rouge, also in Williamsburg, from 10pm-1am. On June 8, there will be a reception at UnionDocs prior to the screenings. On June 9, the big Threshold DJ dance party associated to a BFF vintage clothing and posters sale blow out will be held at Brooklyn Bazaar in Greenpoint from 9pm-1am. And finally, after the award ceremony at Windmill Studios, a farewell party with complimentary drinks will wrap the the festival.
BFF’s list of sponsors for 2018 includes WNET, Eurochannel, G-Star Raw, AbelCine, VER, NYC Camera Company, Sixpoint Brewery, Line 39 wine, Via and for the 6th consecutive year, TBWA/CHIAT/DAY, which has created another compelling and innovative promotional campaign tied to the theme: “Bad times make great art.” Watch this year’s campaign videos at: http://bit.ly/2FVlPtK  and http://bit.ly/2I0d8nB.  

As a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, BFF is supported in part by (public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Google for Non-Profit), CUNY and The Young Professionals of the Americas Society (and Techsoup). Several BFF events this year will be organized in collaboration with Brooklyn Filmmakers Collective, Brooklyn Documentary Club, Film Shop, Video Consortium, UnionDocs and Maysles Documentary Center.
In each of the six film categories, BFF’s judges will select Best Film, Spirit Award and Audience Award winners. From all the six categories combined, BFF will award one of each of the following: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Original Score, Best Editor, Best Cinematographer, Best Screenplay Writer, Best Producer, Best New Director, and Best Brooklyn Project. Through the resources of our sponsors, BFF will assign to the winning filmmakers $50,000 in prizes (products, services and cash).
Below is a partial line-up of films from the Narrative and Documentary Features sections. To view the full film line up, visit: http://www.brooklynfilmfestival.org/films/2018/index.asp




NARRATIVE FEATURES:


“Are You Glad I'm Here” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
Dir. Noor Gharzeddine, Lebanon, 85 min.
A millennial American girl befriends a Lebanese housewife and disrupts her ordered life; one night they become accidental partners-in crime.


“Birds Without Feathers” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
2018 Slamdance Film Festival, Spirit Award Winner
Dir. Wendy McColm, USA, 92 min.
Unable to make a human connection, six broken individuals will give everything away in an attempt to receive love.


“Brothers” - USA PREMIERE
Dir. Bram Schouw, The Netherlands, 106 min.
When Alexander suddenly leaves on a road trip to France, Lukas decides to join him as he’s been trailing his charismatic brother for his entire life. But during this journey he discovers that he finally has to go his own way, not knowing this decision would be so all-encompassing.


“Can Hitler Happen Here?”
Dir. Saskia Rifkin, USA, 74 min.
Meddling neighbors, ambitious social-workers and real-estate vultures conspire to torment an eccentric old lady. Or maybe they're just trying to help.


“Golnesa” - EAST COAST PREMIERE
Dir. Sattar Chamani Gol, Iran, 94 min.
Golmammad and Golnesa, a young Afghan couple, are illegal immigrants who are working in a traditional brick making kiln in Iran. Following the events happening to them, their lives undergo changes.


“Ice Cream” - WORLD PREMIERE
Dir. Saba Riazi, Iran, 63 min.
Maryam, a 30-year-old woman in Tehran, having lost her job and apartment, is forced to move in with her grandmother. She is trying hard to make things work and
in doing so, she faces herself, eating ice-cream. This funny, semi-autobiographical film seamlessly combines animation and live action into a poetic meditation about identity and belonging.


“Life is Fare” - WORLD PREMIERE
Dir. Sephora Woldu, USA, 61 min.
An experimental Tigrinya/English musical movie exploring three wildly different perspectives on the East African nation of Eritrea.


“My Country” - EAST COAST PREMIERE
2017 Route 66 Film Festival Audience Award Winner
Dir. Giancarlo Iannotta, USA/Italy, 78 min.
Two brothers - one American, one Italian who've never met - take a road trip from Rome to the unknown picturesque region of Molise on a journey to spread the ashes of their late father in the small town where he was born.


“Nosotros”
Dir. Felipe Vara de Rey, Spain, 93 min.
“Nosotros” follows a group of five friends during the weekend of the Spanish presidential election held in December 2015, probably the most important one in Spain's recent history due to the deep political and financial crisis in Southern Europe.


“One Bedroom”
Dir. Darien Sills-Evans, USA, 83 min.
Writer-director Darien Sills-Evans combines humor and drama to create a portrait of a relationship at the end of its journey. Set in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, and told through vivid flashbacks, the audience is taken through the whirlwind tale of Melissa and Nate’s courtship. Melissa and Nate have been through a lot together, but sometimes Black Love gets broken.


“Prison Logic” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
Dir. Romany Malco, USA, 91 min.
Released from prison and placed on probation, Tijuana Jackson sets out to fulfill his dream of becoming a world renowned motivational speaker but fails to comply with strict orders from his no-nonsense probation officer.


“Room For Rent” - EAST COAST PREMIERE
Chicago Comedy Film Festival, Best Feature Winner
Dir. Matt Atkinson, Canada, 89 min.
When a broke thirty-two year old ex-lottery winner (Mark Little, “Space Riders: Division Earth”) convinces his parents to rent their spare room to save from downsizing, a creepy stranger (Brett Gelman, “Lemon,” “Stranger Things”) with a hidden agenda moves in. Co-stars Mark McKinney (“Superstore”) and Stephnie Weir (“My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).


“Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon” - EAST COAST PREMIERE
2018 Toronto International Spring of Horror and Fantasy Film Festival, Best Feature & Performance Winner
Dir. Luke Shirock, USA, 110 min.
When a man finds himself on trial in a courtroom haunted by his own demons, he must reckon with the guilt of his mother's death before it destroys him and the one he loves. A musical film directed by and starring Luke Shirock.


DOCUMENTARY FEATURES:


“Active Measures” - USA PREMIERE
Fresh off its World Premiere at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Dir. Jack Bryan, USA, 100 min.
Relying on expert testimony and existing footage, “Active Measures” documents the surprisingly interconnected rise of two men, Donald Trump and  Russian president Vladimir Putin. Features unprecedented access with interviews including Hillary Clinton, John McCain, James Woolsey, Michael McFaul and more.


“Afghan Cycles” - EAST COAST PREMIERE
Dir. Sarah Menzies, USA, 90 min.
Following a new generation of young Afghan women cyclists, “Afghan Cycles” uses the bicycle to tell a story of women's rights - human rights - and the struggles faced by Afghan women on a daily basis, from discrimination to abuse, to the oppressive silencing of their voices in all aspects of contemporary society.


“My Name is Pedro”
Dir. Lillian LaSalle, USA, 96 min.
This film explores what public education meant to South Bronx Latino maverick educator, Pedro Santana, and what he, in turn, meant to public education. Infectious in his optimism, Santana becomes one of the most influential public school teachers and then administrators in the New York public school system after turning his troubled Bronx middle school, MS 391, around.


“Nos Llaman Guerreras”/“They Call Us Warriors” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
Dirs. Jennifer Socorro, Edwin Corona Ramos & David Alonso, Venezuela, 81 min.
After becoming undefeated champions of the South American Women Under-17 Championship and overcoming one of the worst social and economic environments for sports practicing, the Venezuelan team takes a chance to win the first World Cup for their country, having the chance to give a voice to women football in their country and perhaps in all of South America.


“Street Fighting Men” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
Dir. Andrew James, USA, 104 min.
Facing dwindling public services, growing inequality and escalating violence, three Detroit men must fight to build something lasting for themselves and future generations.


“The New Man” - INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE
Dir. Josh Appignanesi and Devorah Baum, United Kingdom, 96 min.
A creative documentary about becoming a parent...and how to reconceive yourself. Fiction director Josh Appignanesi turns the camera on himself and his wife as they undergo the ordeal of becoming parents in the era of man-children and assisted reproduction.


“Working in Protest” - NEW YORK PREMIERE
Dir. Michael Galinsky & Suki Hawley, USA, 74 min.
BFF alums Michael Hawley and Suki Galinsky (“Battle for Brooklyn”) have documented protests for over 30 years as observers rather than journalists or activists. Starting in North Carolina in 1987 and ending in DC in 2017, the film captures the discourse of modern political protest.


About Brooklyn Film Festival (BFF) :
The organizers of the Brooklyn Film Festival have been staging International, competitive film events since 1998. BFF's mission is to provide a public forum in Brooklyn in order to advance public interest in films and the independent production of films, to draw worldwide attention to Brooklyn as a center for cinema, to encourage the rights of all Brooklyn residents to access and experience the power of independent filmmaking, and to promote artistic excellence and the creative freedom of artists without censure. BFF, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.


For more info about the festival please visit www.brooklynfilmfestival.org.
For more info about kidsfilmfest, visit www.kidsfilmfest.org.