Friday, September 21, 2018
Essentially three separate films by three different directors linked by the Robert Ryan character who narrates the film seeks to show what the life of spies is really like. Gritty, down beat and dark the stories are simple but not simplistic. The first story concerns an Italian scientist who has a new formula the various powers want. He is then manipulated toward siding with the US. The second has a spy running down information concerning Polaris submarines. The final story has Henry Fonda as deep cover agent who comes in from the cold and is put in a hotel against his wishes and thus left a target for assassins.
There are no super heroics just men and women doing their job. This is more John LaCarre territory and not Ian Fleming. People screw up, are captured and die. While the stories are simple of necessity, this is really 3 short films, they convey the tough life of a spy. We get a sense of the danger which most other films and TV programs never seem to convey. We also get a sense of the action happening across the globe and not one exotic locale.
While the film could never be considered the best of it’s kind, it is a damn fine film. It has genuine suspense especially in the final Henry Fonda segment. Fonda is excellent and he makes this final bit work. It is one of the best pieces of work he turned out and the fact that most people have never seen it is a sin.
I highly recommend the film.
One last note IMDB lists the running time as 118 minutes but the only version I’ve seen is a 90 minute one
Thursday, September 20, 2018
This is exactly what you think it is going to be. Four strong women taking nothing from no one and chatting about their achievements.
Are there grand revelations? Nothing too earth shaking but for anyone who is a fan, of one or all of the ladies, its simply the chance to be in the company of some great actresses for a while.
You will forgive me it's hard to really review this. Its a bit of fluff. Yes, it is informative but it's fluff. Never intended to be a grand career retrospective, simply the talk in an afternoon. The title infers that there is going to be limits so you can't get upset if it never goes too deep.
Frankly I enjoyed it and recommend it.
There is however one caveat.(At this is the point anyone connected with the PR firm or IFC should stop reading) My understanding is that this was put together as a TV special for the BBC. A friend saw it as such just as I was getting the promotional material for this. As much as I liked it I don't think there is really enough here to ask anyone to pay movie theater prices to see this on a big screen. I would have no problem with VOD but the increased theater costs is a bit much.
TEA WITH THE DAMES hit theaters tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
The movie consists of a couple of stories happening. One is the absent father whose father asks him to come to help stop his daughter from marrying a popular singer turned Hasid (very religious man). Her family is conservative, and their daughter used to be as well, but now she is religious, and about to marry a man who also became ultra religious. The family doesn't trust the singer and are determined to find out dirt on the man to break them apart.
The second one concerns, the same man and his father. They are both therapists The father wants him to help him with two of his patients who are a couple. They are in a custody battle and have a Court order to go to therapy. The wife is involved in some pagan cult and the husband thinks she's going crazy, and is scared for their son.
I really enjoyed this drama a lot, and was kept wondering how things would end up. After seeing the film I discovered it is based on a true story. I wish I had been able to go to one of the public screenings to hear the director talk.
I definitely recommend it.
Trippy, gross and at times very WTF, COYOTE is a a very strange film. I'm not really sure what I think of it, not because it is so odd but more because I don't think the plot really all hangs together. Its a film that intellectually is all there because I can connect up the pieces but I'm not sure its all on the screen. Something, I'm not sure what, seems to be missing.
That said it is a singular vision and as such is definitely worth a look, especuially if you get the chance to see it at a festival, such as LA where it is playing this weekend.
Nomads can’t bet the farm, but they have livestock. Unfortunately, young Sukhbat’s family lost their herd to a sudden snap of winter foulness. Now their only hope to avoid ruin is winning a regional horse race. Growing up is hard, but so is every other aspect of life in Marta Minorowicz’s Zud, which screens during this year’s Kino Polska at the BAM Cinematek.
The characters and settings are pure Mongolian, but this is a Polish film. Likewise, it certainly has the look and feel of an unscripted observational documentary, but it is in fact a fictional narrative. However, the difficulties facing Mongolia’s nomadic herders is certainly true enough. Presumably, the cast of steppe-based nomads could relate. Indeed, there is probably a good deal of inadvertent method acting going on in this film.
Sukhbat’s father is deeply in debt and the note is already past-due. The lending authorities will not give him anymore time, despite the loss of his cattle. He therefore places all his hopes on a promising young wild stallion he has just broken. Sukhbat will be the jockey and serve as the horse’s primary training, or at least that is what he is told. Alas, nothing he does is ever good enough for his micromanaging father, who is clearly feeling the pressure of their precarious situation.
This is one tough coming of age story. Minorowicz’s portrayal of nomadic life clearly suggests families are not held together by love but by a survival imperative. It certainly feels true to life, since it was shot on remote locations, employing nonprofessional local actors, seemingly playing thinly fictionalized analogs of themselves. She also films with an anthropologist’s eye, investing considerable time in many of the regular tasks and everyday rituals that have defined her characters’ lives.
Frankly, Minorowicz could have easily passed Zud off as a legit documentary if she wanted to, so give her credit for being forthright. Presumably, she also made the film she set out to make, so she and Kenneth McBride should want all their due credit for their screenplay. Yet, it is hard to imagine how scripted many of these scenes could have been.
Regardless of all that, as his namesake, Sukhbat Batsaikhan is a highly compelling young protagonist. You would assume he is really just going about his chores, heedless of the camera. However, Batsaikhan Budee is an even more impressive actor, because all of his anxiety and stress looks alarmingly real.
If you don’t look too hard at the details American Dresser is an entertaining little film. This is a good time with good people. I liked that, for the most part there isn’t a great any real gloom and doom. Yes it starts in a dark place but it comes around to be a film about healing.
Actually the one point where the film loses its way is the inclusion of a run in with a bad bunch of cops who beat Keith David up because they think he committed a crime. It’s out of place with the rest of the film and kind of seems to be there in order to to add in a some third act tension which isn’t needed because by then we are so invested in the characters we will gladly follow them to the end.
While nothing earth shaking American Dresser is just a great way to pass an evening. Its actually good enough that it’s going to be the sort of film you’ll stop to watch whenever you run across it on its eventual trip into TV rotation
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Today, the ruins of ancient Ansi happen to be in China, but the local spirits can’t be too happy about that. During the mid-7th Century, it was squarely a part of the Goguryeo Empire, a forerunner to Korea. Unfortunately, its commander was not in good standing with the generals at court, so when the Tang emperor laid siege to the fort, they were on the own. The tenacious defense of Ansi comes to the big screen in a big way in Kim Kwang-sik’s The Great Battle, which opens this Friday in New York.
The Great Battle is not kidding around. It starts with a disastrous route of the Goguryeo forces that Samul, a young cadet commander just barely survives. Naturally, at such a time of crisis, his next assignment is to assassinate Yang Manchun, the slightly off-the-reservation commander of Ansi, who seems to think he knows better than his commanding officers, because he does.
Not so shockingly, Yang is onto Samul right from the start, but he still lets the long-absent Ansi-native back into the fortress city. Despite his orders, Samul is quickly won over by Yang’s close, protective relationship with his people. Soon, Samul is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Yang’s lieutenants defending Ansi. They manage to foil most of Emperor Taizong’s siege devices, but things start to looking iffy when the Tang forces start getting creative. Things will get loud and bloody, but the film stays surprisingly close to the historical record.
There is some drama interspersed throughout Great Battle, but the warfighting scenes are what this film is all about. If you enjoyed movies like Braveheart, 300, and Red Cliff than Great Battle will be like catnip for you. It is often brutal, but the battle scenes are remarkably well-choreographed and crisply shot. This was a tough war to fight, but Kim certainly makes it quite a cinematic spectacle.
So, yes, the action is the thing, but there are still some nice performances, particularly Seol Hyun and Um Tae-goo as Beck-ha and Pa-so, two of Yang’s trusted warriors (and in her case, his sister too), who are also engaged in a tragic romance. Zo In-sung is truly commanding as Yang, in what could be his career best performance to date. Although Park Sung-woong has played plenty of bag guys before (including a different sort of emperor in For the Emperor), he is totally cold-blooded (and almost unrecognizable) chewing the scenery as the ruthless Taizong.
I really won't go too much into the plot, way too much happens to explain simply, but the story revolves around Common and his daughter. He works in publishing and is supposed to speak at his daughter's career day. In to the mix add a new kid in class with a crush on Common's daughter, Allison Janney trying to deal with a dead body at the school, a cut power cord in an office kitchen, the discovery of an affair, an angsty teacher teaching little kids about failure and existential crisis, a fist fight and paramedics who really won't help anyone.
There is way more going on with the cast of stars, including one surprise cameo at the end and Greer handles it all with near perfection. This is the sort of film where timing is everything and Greer nails it. She keeps pacing tight, the actors under control and the laughs coming. We never have time to look away or ponder how silly it all is, we just smile and wait for the next funny bit.
What I really like about the film is that in an age when so many films come out where no one really cares or at least it seems that way from the way things bleed off the screen, here is a film where everyone seems to be having a good time. The broad spectrum of actors who grace the screen actually all seem to want to be there and appear to be having a good time. This clearly wasn't just a paycheck job for anyone involved and as a result we in the audience have a good time.
I'm not going to lie and say this is high art, it's not, but it is entertaining. This is film to curl up with a bowl of popcorn, a big drink and some friends and have a good time.
Recommended when the film his theaters Friday.
Monday, September 17, 2018
This was a good film. I wish there was a bit more back story, but seemed like they didn’t want to focus on the past too much, and more so deal with the 24hrs. I didn’t love it, but it was good. It shows what someone dealing with addiction goes through and what the family goes through too. I won’t be surprised if this gets Julia Roberts an Oscar nomination.
There is so much in Call Her Ganda I don’t know where to begin. The film is such an emotional rollercoaster that even some months after seeing the film (I saw the film originally during Tribeca) I am still processing it and still trying to find the words.
Director PJ Raval beautifully balances all of the factors at play in the case. I love that no matter where the discussion goes we never lose sight of the fact that there was human being at the center of it all. Raval keeps this a personal story with the result that our emotions are moved. Too often when we are discussing gender and international politics we forget the people sparking the discussion. Raval makes certain that Jennifer Laudes is front and center.
While I knew things were tense between the Philippines and the US I never realized how bad things were and how badly the US abused what is supposed to be a sovereign nation. I never realized that the US military basically carte blanche to beat rape and kill without any real fear of prosecution. I truly didn’t know that until Pemberton had been convicted of Laudes’s murder no service man had ever been successfully prosecuted. Money be damned I’m shocked that the people living near US military bases didn’t kill anyone who left the base. America should be ashamed.
CALL HER GANDA kicked me to the curb. My heart broke, not just for Jennifer but her mother who has had to fight for justice. No parent should have to bury their child. And if a parent should bury their child there should be an accounting.
I don’t know what to say but go and see it and be moved.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Florida's celebration of indie film returns April 5th - 7th to bring cinematic revelries to the Sunshine State's capital
Friday, September 14th, TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA - Springtime is prime time in Tallahassee, Florida's capital city, a place known for college football, the natural splendor of its canopy roads, and as the hometown of cinema legends from Ricou Browning (who played "The Creature from the Black Lagoon") to Faye Dunaway, and, more recently, as the collegiate stomping grounds of Academy Award-winning director Barry Jenkins ("Moonlight").
It's also home to the Tallahassee Film Festival, which unspools April 5-7, 2019. Founded in 2008, the festival relaunched this year after an extended hiatus, welcoming more than 50 filmmaker guests and some 90 features and shorts selections. Submissions are now open for next year's fest. Features, shorts, animation, documentaries, experimental films and work for TV/digital platforms are eligible. Must be completed between January 2018 and the late submission closing date of Jan. 15, 2019.
Early bird rates of $15/$20 apply until Sept. 30. Submissions accepted through FilmFreeway, Withoutabox, Festhome and FilmFestivalLife.
About 90 percent of the festival's program is drawn from submissions, which strongly favors first-time filmmakers and independent visions. Over the years, notable guests have included Barry Jenkins, Joe Swanberg, Kat Candler, Onur Tukel, Bill Morrison, Harrod Blank and Turner Ross.
Chicago writer-director Michael Smith ("Mercury in Retrograde"), whose work has twice been showcased by TFF, sings its praises. "One of my favorite regional film festivals! The programming is outstanding: for the films in competition, the programmers select excellent-quality and TRUE indie films that are not just the same films playing all of the other regional fests. Plus they showcase exciting titles fresh from Sundance, Slamdance, etc for their out-of-competition slots. They are also extremely well-organized and communicative. Great after parties, Q&A sessions and a well-run awards ceremony (featuring beautiful trophies) on closing night. A relaxed and friendly atmosphere where the opportunities for networking with other filmmakers are plentiful. I greatly hope to return!"
To submit a film, and for more information, please click on the link below.
- Tallahassee Democrat., March 22, 2018
Follow us on Instagram: @tallyfilmfest
Nate Hood on Commander Arian - A Story of Women, War & Freedom (2018) Camden International Film Festival
The film centers on the eponymous Arian Afrin, a commander in the Women’s Protection Unit (YPJ), a resistance army of Syrian-Kurdish women that arose in 2013. During an operation, Afrin’s unit was ambushed and she was shot five times by a combatant hiding in a hencoop. The bullets entered her spine, elbow, lung, and sacrum, necessitating a series of gruesome operations leaving her with a ghastly stomach scar not unlike one left by a cesarean. Several feet of intestines needed to be removed, and her bowels never fully healed, leaving her perpetually leaking urine and other fluids. The film opens with Afrin nearing the end of her convalescence as she reintegrates back into her unit as they begin their final push to retake the captured city of Kobane. Though she still hasn’t regained full use of her arms and retains a limp, she still joins her sisters-in-arms in deadly firefights. But the film is mostly interested in the still, quiet moments in between the fighting where Afrin sits, listens, tends her wounds, and eats her meals with her fellow women soldiers.
As the title explains, this is a story of women, so even more than the combat footage—which Sotorra clearly risked her life for—the film concerns itself with their fears, memories, and hopes. What is it like to not just be a woman soldier, but a WOMAN in a world gone topsy-turvy from sectarian violence? Pointedly, there’s no sense of triumph at the end of the film, even when they retake Kobane. Instead there’s merely a sense of relief that it’s over and a tired determination that there’s still much more to do.
Modern age of the version of the TV clip shows that some comedy and movie theaters show casing weird things found on TV, though this time out the clips are all from the internet. From rock shows, to weird weather, a transgender woman talking about her life, to burning trees and bizarre rants and behavior this film has it all. A visual and aural assault on the senses or seemingly random bits it is broken into six parts as if that means something. I couldn’t find any, as the steady stream of clips forced me to sit up and struggle to engage.
Does it mean anything? I don’t know. After a while I tuned out because it was simply too much random information coming in with too little time to process.
People sit around and tell stories.
Kind of experimental film is interesting as long as I let the film wash over me but once I tried to piece things together I started to feel hopelessly lost.
Several young girls try to use sex as a way of making money and getting ahead including selling their virginity and working in the sex industry. Grim and grimy documentary about the desperation of some women who will do anything to make their fortunes. A decided walk on the seedier side of life, it is a sad reminder that life is a terrible place for most people.
Seemingly heavily influenced by American documentarian Frederik Wiseman, a filmmaker who’s turned his persistently objective gaze on his own country’s social institutions for the better part of sixty years, Caissy seeks to not only examine his young recruits but the CAF themselves and how they produce a sterile environment that psychologically strips the individuality away from its trainees for replacement with a collectivized, self-sacrificial mentality. (“It’s Canada before yourself,” one officer booms.)
But unlike Wiseman who liberally turned his camera on the administrators and bossmen of the institutions he probed, Caissy rarely shows the commanding officers, even during training exercises, choosing instead to focus on the steely-eyed, blank expressions of the soldiers as they receive orders, reprimands, and assignments. Sometimes this is used to great effect, such as a scene where the soldiers are taught the byzantine, labyrinthine differences between orders and directives from various agencies like the DAOD, the CFAO, and the CBI: they struggle to stay focused and awake as their unseen instructor drones on and on about protocol. In other sequences such as a recruit getting interrogated by his sergeant for accidentally leaving his cell phone on during an inspection, the creative decision seems arbitrary. Perhaps Caissy was uncomfortable with doing anything that might humanize the officers over the recruits—doing so could have easily made the film less an exploration of humans under difficult conditions then a recruitment tool advertising the CAF.
But the choice of music—not just the aforementioned Prelude but other classical flourishes—tip Caissy’s hand in way he probably didn’t intend.
Good but kind bland film about life in a country at war. We watch the daily life of the various subjects while listening to their thoughts in voice over narration. It gives us insight into what is going on in their hearts but it never quite generates the necessary level of excitement, at least to support a two hour film.
The problem is the film is so very earnest in what it is doing and seeming so intent on being good it ends up being bland. In a weird way I got the sense that it wants to be a purely observational film and it stands back and outside a lot of what it is documenting. And yet there wasn’t enough insight into the various people so they added the voice overs. It’s beautiful to look at but it never is quite compelling.
While I like the film, watching it I get the feeling that the film has gotten slots at festivals such as Camden, Toronto and New York not because the film is truly great but because the festivals have respect for James Longley the film’s director. I say this because there are so many other better films out there that have not gotten a shot at the big stage but should have.
Recommended for those with interest in the subject but not for general audiences who are advised to look elsewhere.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
My suggestion? Laptop, darkened room, and headphones. Consider the first minute and a half where Survilla presents us with a Kubrickian black screen à la 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). But instead of a wailing choir, we hear the rumblings of the forest: the swaying of trees, the snapping of twigs, the low rumble of unseen thumpings and thuddings. Soon the black fades into the night sky and little moths dance among the stars. Then comes the sound of gurgling water as schools of tiny fish slowly appear on screen shimmering among submerged tree roots. And in the distance, unseen, wolves and birds. The effect is hypnotic and key for acclimating oneself into Survilla’s method of sculpting time which is so highly reminiscent of Tarkovsky there are moments when you could imagine the cast of Stalker (1979) wandering into the frame. I shudder to think how a theater, even one with superb acoustics, might butcher the highly nuanced sound design.
Survilla presents a truly untamed wilderness in which one can see/hear echoes of an ecosystem still unmolested by humanity—there is only one human shown, a wizened farmer who appears in exactly two scenes, first to chop firewood, then to watch an incoming thunderstorm.
However, with the exceptions of the brilliant opening sequence and a chilling scene where he repeats footage of a family of cranes devouring an army of frogs, first in normal speed and then in slow-motion, he does precious little with what he finds other than present it to us in a deadening succession. The effect can sometimes come off like a nature documentary sans David Attenborough’s narration. Survilla clearly wants to evoke the otherworldly mood and timelessness of an antediluvian nature, but it comes off too frequently as frustratingly repetitive.
YOURS IN SISTERHOOD
Women today read letters from Ms Magazine from the 1970's
Very good time capsule revealing how far we've come and how far we have to go. This is going to pla best for people who know what Ms was and stood for. I love bits of this such as the woman who reads the letter sent in from her 16 year old self. While I like the film a great deal I think it's a bit long at 100 minutes or so thanks to pretty much every reader being bookended by silence. uibble aside definitely worth a look.
Kafia, a young woman from Somalia tries to find the balance between life in her new home in Hungary and he Somali Background. If you've ever wondered what its like to leave everything you know for a better life somewhere else this film will give you an idea. While Kafia would seem to have an easier time than most, her struggle to balance this new world and it's new opportunities make this a compelling film. Also helping is the fact Kafia is a charming young lady you can't help but like. Worth a look.
Ethan Rice is a young man with cystic fibrosis. A filmmaker and musician we watch as he navigates his final days. A film of mixed emotions will leave you both sad at what it shows and happy at having met Ethan, a wickedly funny young man with a one of a kind outlook on dying- its not death tat scares him its the road there. I really like the film but it made me sad, and as such I will not write alot on the film because I don't want to be in that headspace.
Various 17 year olds talk to each other about their lives.
I have no idea what I think of this film. While billed as a documentary the film feels more like a work of fiction, perhaps docufiction as things see to be set up and not natural occurrences. The sense of unreality crashes into the reality for an uneasy partnership.
Friday, September 14, 2018
This is cinema as imagined by Guy Debord and his band of Continental psychogeographists: an examination of the symbiotic relationship between people and places. If this sounds dull, it’s only because you haven’t witnessed Levine and Rappmund’s mesmeric kino-eye: shot entirely in still shots and rapid stop-motion photography, the film transforms even busy highways into semi-static landscapes. Combined with the random unseen chattering of those found along its route—street poets and street perverts, homeless dandies and radio hosts—the effect is at once hypnotic and terrifying, ecstatic and spellbinding. Before long the film lulls you into a stupor as the freeway slithers past palm trees poking up behind empty reservoirs canals and rusty old pumpjacks in the middle of parking lots; quaint one-story homes in the shadow of factory smokestacks and rundown two-story houses decaying in the California heat; dead birds smashed on the pavement, dusty horses wandering construction sites. Soon the rhythm of the cities reveal themselves to us in subtle ways—at night when the shops and banks lie shuttered like corpses and the tail-lights of midnight traffic blaze like neon lettering, the solitude of empty bus-stops and the noise of crowded taco trucks feel like enigmas into unseen, unspeakable patterns.
In many ways the film feels reminiscent of Joji Koyama and Tujiko Noriko’s Kuro (2017), another work that juxtaposed invisible narration with urban landscapes to create something meditative and ephemeral. Communion Los Angeles is by design not a documentary for everyone—many people might scoff at the idea of it being a documentary at all. But to those with the right eyes to see and the right minds to understand, it’s a revelation.
Among the woodland firefighters of Grant’s Pass, Oregon, there are single fathers, ex-prisoners, and former addicts. Some feel called by God, some by the money, and some by the work. “I wanna feel things,” one of the new twentysomething recruits explains, “I wanna get scrapes and cuts and I wanna sweat. I wanna feel my legs burn when I get to the top of a hill. I wanna feel it. Those are the things that make me feel alive.” But whatever their motivations, these men come together for the sole purpose of defending lives and wildlife from the wildfires that threaten the west coast of North America every dry season.
Supposedly named after the Norman Maclean book about the deadly Mann Gulch fire of 1949, Alex Jablonski and Khalil Hudson’s Young Men and Fire follows the recruiting, training, and first missions of a new generation of hotshots. If Joseph Kosinski’s magnificent retelling of the doomed Granite Mountain Hotshots’ last mission in Only the Brave (2017) was the fact made fantasy, then Young Men and Fire is the fantasy made fact as it strips away all the inherent romanticism of man vs. nature with a ceaseless succession of backbreaking labor and stultifying monotony.
Right off the bat the recruits are told that it’s not unusual to work 100-hour weeks; twelve hour days are the norm and fourteen, sixteen, and even twenty-four hour shifts aren’t uncommon while in the thick of things. One of the trainers mentions casually that during one particularly nasty deployment she lost twelve pounds in the three days. So we watch them train and work and train and work until they can barely stand or speak. And only then are they sent off to fight actual fires.
It quickly becomes apparent that the biggest danger they face isn’t the fire, but boredom, both in a metaphorical and literal sense: if you slack off and don’t pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll probably end up dead. But the tedium hardly bothers the men—this is the work they were born to do, and they love it.
In an unusual stylistic twist, Jablonski and Hudson frame the film with quotes from an audiobook of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, his novel about growing up in the midwest. The comparisons are unmistakable: firefighting is a crucible that turns boys into men and broken lives into new and whole ones.
A look at the Maine Commission for Truth and Reconciliation which sought to look into the State's treatment of indigenous children who were often taken from their parents and put into foster care of put up for adoption under the assumption that the kids would be better off not growing up on the reservation.
This is a bracing and eye opening film that is going to open your eyes to a whole world of pain inflicted on the North American people by "well intentioned" (outright racist) stupid white people who broke up families and cultures for no really good reason. I did not realize this was happening even today and I left the film feeling more than a little pissed off.
While the subject matter is important and vital, more so in that I know that the vast majority of Americans don't realize that the separations happened and are still happening, the presentation is a little too matter of fact for such a vital subject. While the film enlightens and enrages I wish it was a tad more in your face so more people would be moved to get off the couch and try to right a very big wrong.
Recommended when the film plays the Camden International Film Festival
It is modern day Germany, not Dirty Harry’s 1970s San Francisco, but apparently the progressive judges and parole boards are just the same. Twenty years ago, Jessica and Sophie’s parents were murdered while they hid in terror. Now, the killers have been released from prison, because of rehabilitation or whatever. However, the dysfunctional sisters continued to feel the impact of the crimes every day of their lives. Sophie is finally ready to move on, but Jessica is not. In fact, she is determined to involve her sister in her bid for vengeance, even if she has to do it from beyond the grave in Oliver Kienle’s Four Hands, which opens today in Los Angeles.
As the older sibling, Jessica shielded Sophie from the sight of the parents’ murder, but she saw it all. That helps explain her more aggressive and erratic behavior. When informed of the murderers’ release, she goes into a full manic cycle, pulling Sophie out of an important audition, so they can plan their attack. Wanting none of it, Sophie tries to flee, but their jostling leads to a fatal traffic accident. Sophie wakes up in the hospital, whereas Jessica went straight to the morgue.
At least Sophie should be able to live her own life now—but not so fast. Rather disturbingly, she starts blacking out, during which time she acts quite suspiciously. She threatens the nice doctor who helped her after the accident and clearly starts stalking the murderers. Then Sophie starts picking up the voice messages Jessica leaves for her.
Throughout most of the film, Kienle leaves plenty of interpretive room for viewers whether the vengeful Jessica is a supernatural or psychological phenomenon. Mostly, Four Hands is a rather intriguing thriller that never crosses over into horror, but should still appeal to the aesthetic sensibilities of horror fans (although there are no one-to-one parallels, it certainly feels like Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers was an influence). Kienle (the creator and head writer of the terrific German television show Bad Banks) is definitely playing with sister/twin/doppelganger motifs, but the film also directly explores the long-term emotional and psychological impact of violent crime, in a serious and thoughtful way.
Friederike Becht is impressively fierce as Jessica, especially during the scenes in which she appears to physically take over Sophie’s body. Again, for most of the film, it is unclear whether this is an actual manifestation of the uncanny or an expressively symbolic strategy of Kienle. Conversely, Frida-Lovisa Hamann often seems problematically bland and passive as Sophie, but that is arguably required of a character who has been dominated so long by a strong but unstable personality like Jessica. Christopher Letkowski is also believably grounded and appropriately freaked out as Martin, the doctor who haltingly pursues a relationship with Sophie.
MDMA is a film that I admire more than I like. On the face of it MDMA isn’t a bad film, it’s just that the film is trying to do a little bit too much. It wants to be Wang’s coming of age tale, a true crime story, a crime thriller, and an anti-drug film but it never quite nails a singular tone. This makes it so things don’t quite hang together even though we know they are one story. You have these small sections of the story that could be peeled off and made into singular films chopped down to fit with these other stories.
Blame it in part on the framing device of the flashback which opens with Angie on the down slide. It colors everything that we see as a result. We know she is a little girl lost so we know it’s going into the shitter- but we also know, since this is, on some level director’s Wang’s story, things will kind of work out. It undercuts a certain amount of suspense
Sitting and thinking about the film for about three weeks, I’ve been trying to work out what exactly feel about the film. There are things in the film I like and some things in the film that are just okay. The problem is that as much as I can go on about, say, how good the performances the fact that the film didn't pull it all together for me leaves me very cold to the film. Part of me wants to walk away from the film but part of me has been fighting with this review for three weeks because there are some good things here. To that end I'm going to leave it to you to decide whether to see MDMA or not.- personally I'm still not sure.
Following the fortunes of a number of plucky young people competing in the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF)—referred to as “the Olympics of science fairs”—it’s an inspirational story designed for soaring musical swells and tear-jerking postscripts.
Understand, none of this is to the film’s detriment: it’s very, very good at getting the audience heavily invested in the stories of these various kids. There’s the headstrong genius-level fourteen-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky with a new sensor for detecting arsenic levels in drinking water who inexplicably keeps losing during national competitions; there’s the duo from a desperately poor city in Brazil who’ve developed new techniques for detecting the Zika virus that’s ravaged their community; there’s the programmer wunderkind from nowhere West Virginia who taught his school calculator to generate Shakespearean insults and his computer Kanye West lyrics through a home-grown neural network; there’s the team of immigrant Chinese students in New York state marshaled by their loving yet imperious science teacher, herself the child of Caribbean immigrants; and there’s the shy hijabi from South Dakota who wants to develop technology to figure out why so many of her classmates descend into alcoholism and drug abuse. The methods with which they and their stories are presented are intimately familiar to anyone whose ever watched an episode of American Idol, Top Chef, or, heaven help you, American Ninja Warrior: interviews in their native trailer parks or favelas; their preparations for the Big Day; their eventual success or failure. It's tried and true and predictable.
The film's true virtue, then, is its tireless sense of optimism, both in science as a means for fostering international cooperation and for inculcating self-confidence and self-agency among young people from disenfranchised backgrounds. Watching the film, it's obvious which subject will win Best in Show (hint: it's the one seemingly added as an afterthought), but for a moment we truly believe that all these young people are winners in their own way, for themselves, their countries, and our species' future. And the winner's envelope please...
Science Fair opens in select theaters today. It also plays at the Camden International FIlm Festival this weekend.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Anton’s parents just needed to finish school and get their degrees and then they would bring their son home to Nigeria. This they did, but life in Nigeria was.. horrible to say the least. He wound up not talking for 6 months, and so they sent him back to England, to the family, for them to take care of him and make him “better”
The British family had several other “fostered” kids, think there were 6 or 7 of them, and the mom definitely had her favorites. She was not a fan of Anton to say the least.
This is a story about a boy who feels abandoned by both sets of parents, and winds up having so much inner hatred. He winds up hating being black and trying to paint his face white.
This was a painful film to watch, especially as Anton has encounters with skinheads, and winds up becoming one himself due to his self loathing and immense amount of anger built up.
There was a lot of violence in this film. A lot of scenes were difficult to watch.
The film is good, very well done, but again very very heavy and heartbreaking to know this is based on a true story.. The woman next to me said she felt like she needed to watch a comedy after seeing it, and I felt the same. Recommended but be prepared for its heaviness.
A coming of age film about teenagers dealing with sexuality, friendships,bullying, family, and high school. A movie about two friends who have been best friends for most of their lives until an incident happens at a party.
I don’t want to give away much because I really loved this film. I loved the main star of the film Josh Wiggins, and the sweet unlikely friendship he later has. The film gave a real life portrayal of real teens going through serious events in life. It felt current and authentic.
I thought the film was beautiful. One of my top films of the festival.
Camden Capsules: SURVIVORS, MY FATHER IS MY SISTER'S BROTHER, PIPELINE, PUTIN'S WITNESSES and WHERE THE PAVEMENT ENDS
This is a portrait of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone as told by the survivors and the filmmakers who filmed it. Focusing on what happened and the work that was done by those who walked into the fray the film reveals what happened in ways that most of us have never seen before. While we no doubt seen the news stories and perhaps even some of the films turned out on the crisis, I don’t think any of us really could have understood what it was like to be there. Featuring footage shot as things went down as well as interviews who were there and who survived the film paints a portrait that only someone from in the thick of the crisis could do.
MY FATHER IS MY SISTER'S BROTHER
Portrait of a musician who takes custody of his young niece after his sister’s health declines. An observational look at a man and his defacto daughter is deeply moving. Dropping us into things in the middle the film just goes as we watch as the pair go through their paces and while dad tries to maintain his career as a singer. This is a super little film that is about life as lived and not as we want it to be. That’s the result of the film being very much there and in the moment. Cheers to director Vadym Ilkov for allowing the sequences to play out in real time because it adds a sense of reality that many docs don’t have.
Portrait of the people and villages around the Trans-Siberian gas pipeline is a gorgeous look at various people most of us know nothing at. A mix of travelogue and informational doc the film demands to be seen on the big screen thanks to beautifully framed images that put us into the landscape.
Record of the transition of power from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin. Its an unvarnished look since director Viyali Mansky was there and filmed it all as it happened. We get snide comments from the directors family and we see everyone without their perfect media faces. And it is a lear view about how tyrants gets into power It is an intriguing look behind the carefully controlled Russian media machine
WHERE THE PAVEMENT ENDS
Thought provoking look at race in America through the all white city of Ferguson and the all black Kinloch which were physically separated by a roadblock in the 1960's. You will forgive me if I don't say a lot about this film other than go see it because as I write this piece the Camden deadline looms and I find I'm still pondering the film and trying to come up with what exactly I want to say. That is high praise because director Jane Gillooly has made a film that forces you to ponder and feel it and not simply react. One of the best of the festival and maybe 2018's as well.
This exploration of what exactly is democracy and what that means for the way that we govern ourselves is a bracing intellectual exercise that is a frightening explanation of how and why democracy seems to be in decline. It also explains why and how we ended up with Donald Trump (he is a demagogue exactly of the sort that Plato warned us about two thousand years ago).
A heady mix of ideas the film doesn’t just deal with academia but also asks people on the street from all over the world what they think. As a result instead of having a purely American answer to what the concept means we get something bigger and greater that fully embraces the world in general and explains why people strive to have a voice in their government, even if in practice it often looks like we’d rather be ruled over by a benevolent dictator.
Full of trains of thought and ideas that will sit with you for days WHAT IS DEMOCRACY will haunt your thoughts and may even get you to go out and actually try to do something to keep your rights.
The film is a the story of a Japanese business man who goes to a South American country to see about setting up a new factory. At a party in his honor his favorite singer, played by Julianne Moore, is to perform. A group of rebels, thinking the president is there, attacks and ends up taking hostages.
A strangely passionless film, it is kind of devoid of any hint of what has made the novel by Ann Patchett such a perennial best seller. That it comes from writer director Paul Weitz is also a bit odd since in films like ABOUT A BOY and GRANDMA he generated real feeling. Watching the film my interest wandered and I started doodling in my notebook. While I was curious to see how it played out, I wasn't curious enough to devote my full attention to it.
I know that I truly broke with the film during the first scene where Julianne Moore sang. The lip sync was so awful, that it was very clear that Moore wasn't singing and I gave up on the whole film.
Is BEL CANTO a bad film? No, not really but there is no need to run out and see it.
I remember growing up in Bartow, Florida, a tiny town of 15,000 people in the dead center of the state. Every Sunday after church my family would go to a barbecue shop for lunch. On the way we’d drive past a billboard advertising something or other with a photo of the desert, and each time we went by the desert would become my world, wrapping around all sides of the car until I could smell the sand and feel the heat.
Hale County, Alabama also has about 15,000 people and is similarly located near the middle of its state. If RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening is anything to go by, there are no desert billboards, but the area is drenched in the same drowsy slowness that makes the mind wander and summon mirages. The miracle, then, of the film is how successfully Ross captures this sense of spatial-temporal otherness that leeches into the life of small Southern towns.
Filmed over five years, it ostensibly follows the lives of two black youths—Quincy and Daniel, the former a worker at the local catfish plant, the latter a wannabe basketball star. And though they drift in and out of the film, Ross’ focus is on the act of the community seeing itself. Rarely does Ross fix his camera where we would expect, such as the backs of cheerleaders during a basketball game, sunlight stabbing through the smoke of a trash burn near an old plantation house, a nervous little girl in the shadow of her mother. Interviews with his subjects are sparse and seem like afterthoughts; one wonders if Ross ever felt the urge to eliminate his subjects entirely and create a pure cinematic tone poem. But the lure of making a statement on black American life must have been too strong, as the advertisements for the film boast its making a statement on rural blackness.
Fair enough. But the film does more. It’s introduces us to a different way of seeing and experiencing the world, one pregnant with poetry and hope born in the shadows of schools, churches, hospitals, and graveyards. It’s Faulknerian prose made manifest through images.
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING hits theaters tomorrow including BAM's Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn and the IFC Center in Manhattan. It also is playing the Camden International FIlm Festival this weekend.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
JT LeRoy was the name a woman named Laura used to write books under. Many authors may have pen names, but Laura created a whole fake person. She would speak to people on the phone as though she was JT, and eventually got her boyfriends sister, Savannah, to pretend to be JT for a photo, the photo led to a photoshoot, which led to her bringing “JT” out in person. Further, Laura, also had a fake personality of being JT’s British agent so that she was everywhere JT was.
Kristen Stewart played the androgynous JT and Laura Dern played the crazy Laura. Courtney Love is in it too
The film is based on the book that the real Savannah wrote. I know there have been other movies about this story, but I haven’t seen any of them, so I don’t have anything to compare it to. The story is bizarre for sure,thought the film was good though. Not a must see, but I recommend it!
THE DAWN WALL is nominally the story of Tommy Caldwell and his friend Kevin Jorgenson's successfully free climbed the world’s most dangerous rock face “The Dawn Wall” section of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. It also is the story of Caldwell's life, which includes being taken hostage by Muslim separatists, misadventures with power tools and winning lots of awards.
Long time readers of Unseen Films probably suspects that I have thing for mountain climbing documentaries because over the years I've reviewed more than my share of them. To me the idea of pitting yourself against nature is a amazing. I am also a sucker for the tales that go along with the climbing. Going to far off lands and seeing and doing things no one ever has before is something I would love to do. As a result when THE DAWN WALL was offered to me I jumped at the chance to review it.
On it's own terms THE DAWN WALL entertained me. It is a really good climbing documentary that tells a great story and I had a wonderful time watching it as I have had with almost every other climbing doc I've run across...
...and that s the problem here. Here is this wonderful story about this amazing guy and the film comes off as just another climbing doc. Yes, I like the film a great deal and I can't wait to see it again, but this is a story I should love.
The problem here is that anything other than the climb kind of gets pushed aside. Caldwell was kidnapped and had to kill his captor to survive and while it is discussed and hangs over the film its kind of like "well this thing happened and it messed e up for a bit but I became more focused and climbed better." The same thing when he loses a finger, its like "well Tommy lost his finger but he trained himself to be stronger so so was a better climber" and that's it. Its kind of as if the directors didn't know how to handle anything except the climbing.
I sooooo wanted to love this film but instead I just like it, which isn't bad but it kind of means that in a year this film is going to be gone from my, and a lot of people's memories.
Nitpicks aside worth seeing when the film opens Friday, especially if you can see it on a big screen.
Director Talal Derki fled his home country when the war in Syria stated and the jihadists moved on his home town. While living in Berlin he decided he needed to go back and see what had become of the place he had grown up. Pretending he was a true believer wanting to spread the word he went back home to film daily life. What he returned with was a portrait of a people who believe in their cause and are raising their children to carry on their fight- while at the same time revealing that they are still very much like us.
I was left reeling by OF FATHERS AND SONS. While most definitely about a bunch of people who would have no qualm about killing everyone I know for their belief, the film also shows us a tenderness between family and between friends that is missing from the vast majority of films about the jihadists. It’s the little moments, jumping in a pool, playing games and the showing of affection that runs counter to the talk of death and destruction in the name of Allah. It’s as if it is a grand other dimension of a world that is like our own but not.
What also makes it kind of trippy is that for the most part everyone is aware the cameras are filming. Everyone is playing to the cameras and putting on a good show. It makes for odd viewing, not like the recruiting videos we’ve seen , but “let’s put on a brave face” even as a limb is lost and things go on.
As the film went on I just stared at the screen, not reacting outwardly but coping with a torrent of emotion inside. What was I supposed to feel? I don’t know- but I do know that three weeks on since I saw the film the film still haunts me making me ponder things I don’t want to think about.
Disturbing nature or no, I highly recommend OF FATHERS AND SONS when it plays at te Camden International Film Festival this weekend.
Having been raised as a fire brat who lived and died fire department stuff because my dad was a volunteer fire fighter, this film was a return to the eight year old version of myself. Had I known that I could have trained to fight fires like this I would have been all over it.
Following guys from orientation through to their deployment in the field we really get a sense of what it takes to do the job. We are with the guys every step of the way and it pays off with a connection that we don’t often get in many films. We like these guys and by the end they kind of become family, if not to have home for Thanksgiving then to hang out with and have a beer.
I really like the film a great deal, so much so that I am kind of hoping it shows up at some more festivals or on TV so I can have an excuse to see it again without any sort of guilt.
THE PUBLIC IMAGE IS ROTTEN is a portrait of the the group Public Image Limited and it's lead singer John Lydon.
A very good look at Lydon and the group the film is going to play best for fans who really know the groups music. I know them more by reputation so I started to get lost as they started to speak of specific albums and songs. I liked it a great deal, I just wish I knew a bit more so I could have followed along.
Recommended for fans or those who want to see what a cool guy Lydon really is.