Friday, February 24, 2017

CHEERLEADER (2016) Winter Film Awards


Irving Franco's CHEERLEADER is a one of a kind film. echoing the teen comedies/dramas of the 1980's and 90's the film is an unstuck in time character study of a cheerleader who sets out to make a guy jealous by dating a nerdy guy with unexpected results.

A knowing comedy/drama the film is not going to be what you expect. This is a film calculated to make you feel and experience what should be a well worn story in a new way.  Old school technology mixes with modern day to create a film set every time, Cliche mixes with a knowing structure that forces us to ponder what we are seeing. Viewing the film is a unique experience as our buttons are pushed as we are made to feel and think about what we are seeing.

To be honest I have no idea what I think of the film. I have no idea what I've seen- but I do know that it is a truly one of a kind must see.  It is a film that will leave you knowing that, unlike the vast majority of American films, you have seen something that is going to stick with you on more than an oh that's cool level.

Recommended

CHEERLEADER  plays Sunday night at the festival.

For ticket and more information go here.

Voodoo (2017)

Voodoo is a bad movie. I mean a really bad movie.

A found footage piece of nonsense it is poorly acted, weakly written and dully shot, There is no reason for us to be seeing anything we are seeing other than the fact that one of the characters is literally filming everything. The found footage explains why the sound is bad and the film looks as amateurish as it does.

It has something about a woman going to LA to get away from her past only to run into the middle of it. I'm quoting the email that I received concerning the film because at a certain point early on I stopped caring and simply waited for something to happen- when it finally does- I completely lost all respect for the film as the woman is abused by a demon while a bunch of followers look on.(it's so sillily done that it's bound to be picked up and used for anti-Trump Memes) The sequence looks terrible as people wrapped in clothes with over done black and white stage make up and dime store plastic teeth look on as a demon rapes the girl. The whole thing looked as if it was shot on a half assed set that was lit all wrong. I simply stared at the film and then replayed the sequence to be sure I was seeing what I was seeing. Yes I was- yes this sequence is in a film that people are actually asking other people to pay to see.

According to the press material the trailer for the film is causing a stir on Facebook who has deemed it offensive and keeps removing it. In Fairness I can see how an effecting trailer could be cut from this film- but as anyone knows you can make any film look good in two minutes- the other almost 90 minutes are just bad.

Voodoo is so bad I was going to not review it. Life is too short and some movies are just too damn bad - but then I realized some of you might actually try to go see it and I have to make some effort to stop you.

This film is just awful avoid it- even if you love bad movies skip it.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Corpse Series (2016) Winter Film Awards

Screamingly funny, incredibly bloody and very often in poor taste story of two friends who are living together who have a problem- one of them keeps killing people and they then have to get rid of the bodies.

Faced paced series is divided into seven chapters of escalating mayhem. What begins as an accidental killing of a hooker becomes an ever increasing series of mishaps as the pair tries to deal with a body only to be interrupted resulting in the accidental arrival of another body... and then another...and another...and....

Twisted beyond words and always laugh out loud funny THE CORPSE SERIES is an absolute delight. It is a perfect poisoned confection of the highest order. This is a film that has more laughs per minute than almost any comedy of any type and certainly more than any horror comedy of the last twenty years. This may very well be the top of the heap of horror comedies, certainly of the modern gore era.

This is the sort of film I want in my collection because I really want to show it to all of my friends who love horror and things ghoulish.

If you love blood and guts and laughs I can't recommend this film enough.

This film plays Sunday night and repeats on the Thursday night of horror,

For more information and tickets go here.

Wolf and Sheep (2016) MOMA Doc Fortnight 2017

Writer Director Shahrbanoo Sadat spent part of her childhood living in the countryside of Afghanistan. She has teken her love and respect for the land and the people and turned it into the magical WOLF AND SHEEP.

A fictional account that is very rooted in the documentary the film is more a slice of life as opposed to a full on narrative. I know we are supposed to see some sort of narrative in the life of the characters, and the children in particular, but the thread is very fine and it's better not to get tangled up in any notion of plot and just take it as a magically realistic documentary.

Bookended by somber events, the death of a villager by cancer and the coming of unknown gunman the film presents a rather hopeful portrait of life being lived in between. Yes there are hardships and the like but the people go on. They are good people, like anywhere in the world. Its easy to understand why Sadat felt compelled to make a film about them, they are people you would want to meet in real life.

And because of the present situation here in the US it's hard not to reach the ending and ponder Trump Administration's attempt to ban refugees from the US. After seeing the film one would be hard pressed not to offer the fleeing villagers a place to live.

This is one of the best films at MOMA's Doc Fortnight and very recommended.

For tickets and more information go here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Train Driver's Diary (2016) Winter Film Awards

Wonderful black comedy/ drama about a train engineer who adopts a a young boy who wants to drive trains as well. The trouble is the father doesn't want him to drive any trains since there is a very good probability that he will kill someone.

This film completely blindsided me. The write up in the Winter Film Awards site doesn't clue you into how funny the film is. The opening bits with the bus full of musicians being killed is really dark and truly funny. By the time our hero had talked the psychologists off the ledge I was hooked and willing to go anywhere the film wanted to go.

Full of odd people and completely believable twists this is one of those films that sneaks up on you and makes you fall in love with cinema all over again. This is closer to life as it is lived than most run of the mill films simply because everyone is their own shade of crazy- loving but quirky.

I can't recommend this film enough - especially for anyone who wants a palate cleanse from you typical Hollywood crap.

For tickets for Saturdays screening can be had here.

Bitter Money (2016) Film Comment Selects 2017

This observational documentary follows the lives of several migrant workers who leave home travel to the big city and then have less than wonderful lives. Its a film that is going to either thrill the select few who love to watch life unfold in real time or it is going put you to sleep.

I'm not going to lie this film was a tough slog for me. Somewhere in the first twenty minutes as we watched people sitting in a train corridor sleeping I started to drift off myself.  I then drifted in and out of the film for the remaining two and a half hours as we watched the various people hang out, work monotonous day jobs and tried to keep their lives together. Some of it was interesting some of it was not but the sheer unevenness and the the almost three hour running time took it's toll.

Clearly this wasn't my cup of tea.

My sleepiness aside I am astute enough to know that if you are someone who likes observational documentaries with long takes you are going to eat this up. If not stay away.

This film plays February 23rd. For tickets and more information go here.

DOCNYC Submissions are open now


Submissions are now open for DOC NYC 2017!

DOC NYC returns for its eighth year on November 9 - 16, 2017. This year, DOC NYC welcomes submissions via new submission platform FilmFreeway as well as longtime partner Withoutabox. We look forward to reviewing your work!

Submission categories:
Features (NYC premiere requirement)
Contemporary documentaries from around the world – 41 minutes in length or longer – that demonstrate a bold commitment to subject matter, excellence in cinematic craft and innovation in storytelling.

Features will be considered for inclusion in either the competitive Viewfinders or Metropolis sections or in several thematic non-competitive sections.

Shorts (NYC premiere preferred, but not required)
DOC NYC showcases the best new short form content - 40 minutes or shorter - in both thematic shorts programs and in screenings before features.

Pitch Perfect (Works-in-Progress Features or Webseries)
Pitch Perfect is a pitching event that is part of DOC NYC Pro, the festival's industry programming component, open to nonfiction works-in-progress features or series proposals in any genre or style.

EARLY BIRD ENTRY is MARCH 3

To Submit Withoutabox
To Submit via Film Freeway

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

AUSTRALIA’S MONSTER FEST ANNOUNCES TRAVELLING SIDESHOW AND SUBMISSIONS OPEN FOR MONSTER FEST 2017


Monster Fest, Australia’s premier genre film festival celebrating cult, horror and the fantastic, returns for its seventh edition November 22-26, 2017 at the Lido Cinemas in Melbourne, mounted with the support of Screen Australia. These dates include the festival’s industry component, The Swinburne University Media and Communication Monster Academy, which will kick off the festival November 22 and 23.

Submissions are now open for Features, Short Films and Expanded Cinema Projects, with an Early Bird Deadline of April 21, a Regular Deadline of June 16 and a final, Extended Deadline of August 4, 2017.

Founded in 2011, Monster Fest is a genre film festival that showcases films and events that fall into the broadly-defined categories of horror, science fiction, action, crime, noir, animation, dark drama, black comedy, gothic western, erotica and more. Its programming is a mix of Premieres, international festival favourites, challenging new discoveries and curated repertory sidebars alongside industry-focused events such as panels and masterclasses with renowned international guests, and a special emphasis on supporting emerging Australian genre film talent through the festival and beyond.

“We had a huge increase in submissions in 2016,” says Festival Director Kier-La Janisse. “And it really diversified our approach to programming. In addition to horror, which is always a staple at Monster Fest, we brought in more crime films, westerns, documentary and animation than ever before, and our audience really went with it - we ended up having our most successful year to date.”

Submissions for Monster Fest 2017 can be processed via Film Freeway or Without a Box. Details and submission guidelines are available at www.monsterfest.com.au/submit

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What’s more, Sydney-based genre fans will get a taste of Monster Pictures’ annual Melbourne-based festival this March, thanks to a unique partnership with Australia’s largest cinema chain Event Cinemas to present The Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow, beginning at the prestigious George Street Cinema in Sydney March 9-11, 2017 with subsequent dates in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
The Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow will be a mix of horror-centric highlights from Monster Fest 2016 (see the archive of 2016 films and events HERE) and select premieres, including the Australian Premieres of Jordan Peele’s acclaimed racial horror GET OUT and the highly-anticipated all-female horror anthology XX (which is distributed in ANZ by Monster Fest parent company Monster Pictures), as well as the World Premiere of Nik Kacevski’s Sydney-made SKINFORD, with cast and crew in person for a hometown red carpet debut.

The 10-film touring satellite event will open on March 9th with the Sydney Premiere of Julia Ducournau’s controversial “Golden Monster”-winning feature debut RAW, about a young vegetarian whose dark urges are awakened after she is forced to undergo a carnivorous college hazing ritual. The fright-filled weekend will also include the hometown premiere of Sydney-made KILLING GROUND (fresh off raves at Sundance), Ben Wheatley’s explosively funny shootout actioner FREE FIRE, a new 4K restoration of Italo-horror maestro Dario Argento’s 1977 masterpiece SUSPIRIA, Sydney director Jai Love’s moving and morbid documentary DEAD HANDS DIG DEEP about the traumatized frontman of extreme metal band Kettle Cadaver, Nicholas Pesce’s gothic Sundance midnighter THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (which Rolling Stone called “curdled Americana at its most gruesome and brilliant”) and André Øvredal’s award-winning THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, recently praised by none other than Stephen King himself, who called it “visceral horror to rival ALIEN and early Cronenberg” and warned: “Watch it, but not alone.”

Monster Fest Director Kier-La Janisse says the Sydney weekender will be just the first of many ‘Monster Fest Presents’ events to be mounted by Monster Pictures over the coming year. “This touring sidebar is an incredibly exciting initiative for us,” she says. “It’s always been Monster Pictures’ goal to bring the most pioneering and challenging new genre cinema to fans all over the country, and to create a wider platform for its appreciation.”

Tickets for The Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow are on sale now at:

Event Cinemas George Street
505-525 George St, Sydney Australia
+61 (0)2 9273 7300

https://www.eventcinemas.com.au/Cinema/George-Street/EventsFestivals/MonsterfestTravellingSideshow#cinemas=15

http://www.monsterfest.com.au/events/monster-fest-travelling-sideshow

Single Session Tickets: Adult $21 / Concession $17.50
5 Film Multi-Pass: Adult $82.50 / Concession $71.50
10 Film VIP Pass: Adult $132 / Concession $110

Winter Film Awards Shorts: BEYOND THE CURTAIN, MOON OF A SLEEPLESS NIGHT and ENDORA

BEYOND THE CURTAIN
During China's Cultural Revolution a young boy is given a comic book by a homeless man who insists it's the man's own story. It leads to unexpected things.

This deliberate mixing of cinema and theater is a film that you have to stay with. Watching the film I was enjoying the pieces, which didn't seem to be coming together, however as the film moved toward's it's conclusion and the parts were connected up, I found that I was deeply moved. This story of keeping culture alive during a time of repression, as well as other things (which I won't reveal). It is a wonderful moving piece of cinematic story telling and why one should always wait to the very end before coming to a conclusion about something (ie this film).

A wonderful surprise.

This plays Sunday Evening at the Festival

MOON OF A SLEEPLESS NIGHT
Absolutely charming stop motion film about a young boy who helps a moon squirrel free the moon from a tree so a night won't last forever.

I have nothing to say but this film will make you sit in wide eyed wonder  and feel absolutely tingly all over. A sheer delight and one of my favorite films at the Winter Film Awards.

Another film I can't believe people aren't talking about.

This plays Saturday at the Festival

ENORA
During the battle of Monte Cassino an alien space craft crashes. As she struggles to find the signaling device to get herself home she meets a British Soldier

Sweet little science fiction film that is just extremely well done all around.

Recommended.

This plays Saturday at the Festival.

For more information and tickets to the festival go here

Decanted (2016)


DECANTED is a lovely little film. The cinematic equivalent to sitting in someone’s back yard and shooting the breeze while enjoying a bottle of wine. The film is a lovely look at the making of wine in and around the Napa Valley in California. It’s a nice non taxing way to spend 80 minutes for anyone who loves wine and everything connected to it.

And as enjoyable as the film, unless you love wine this film is going to wash over you and be gone as soon as the credits roll. It’s not that there is anything wrong with it, it’s just that there is no tension, no conflict, it’s simply people making wine for an hour and a half. It’s so beautiful and so nice that it comes perilously close to being an extended infomercial for the wines shown in the film.

I enjoyed my time watching the film, but to be honest about 20 minutes in I was kind of done. There was nothing bad with anything that was on screen but as someone who is not a wine drinker, nor who doesn’t really care about wine making I didn’t have anything to latch on to. This is a year in the life of a winery, which is fine but it didn’t connect to me. I am not like the guy in the film who fell in love with wine making at age 9.

If you are a wine drinker with a desire to see how it’s made in a beautiful to look at film I highly recommended DECANTED. For everyone else this film is worth a shot but not required.

DECANTED hits VOD February 28th

Monday, February 20, 2017

Winter Film Awards - Short films LILA, ZOMBIES, TOKYO COSMO, EYE FOR AN EYE, IN THE DISTANCE, MY LIFE I DON'T WANT and MY KINGDOM

These are capsule reviews of some short films playing at the Winter Film Awards, They are some really good- and a few really great films. For more information and tickets go to the Winter Film Awards Website

LILA
One of my favorite film of 2017. A glorious combination of animation and live action has a young woman's sketches adding magic to life. This film is pure joy with a tinge of bittersweetness. I laughed I smiled and I got misty.

How the hell wasn't this picked up by pretty much every other festival?

Its a gem of the highest quality- and probably one of the best films of 2017 that I've seen

ZOMBIES
Trapped in a room during a zombie apocalypse a couple has a conversation that is probably the wrong one to be having just then- but the result is really damn funny...

And forgive me for not revealing more but if I tell you any more it will ruin it...and I don't want to do that. WOnderfully the laughs continue on all through the end credits too.

TOKYO COSMO
A woman day dreams in her apartment after work. A gentle little trifle that will make you smile at the journeys our flights of fantasy can take us on.. A delight.

EYE FOR AN EYE
Perfectly rendered animated autobiography of Frederick Baer who is on death row. A four minute film that perfectly encapsulates a life misspent. A fine example of what can be done with animation in the hands of a skilled director.

IN THE DISTANCE
A man lives in a tower above the clouds who has to deal with the approach of trouble over a series of days. A beautifully rendered film that is a warning to anyone who insists on putting their head in the sand when danger approaches or thinks that life can't touch him. A sobering masterpiece.

MY LIFE I DON"T WANT
I punch in the face film nominally about the life of women in Myanmar but which could be anywhere that women are abused and forced into second or third class citizenship.I painfully charts the course of a life that starts out happy and joyous and then turns more and more pained. This is the sort of film that should be a rallying point for women's issues across the globe.

MY KINGDOM
A brief song about personal space. The weakest of any of the films I've screened from the fest and suffers by comparison.

The films play at various times during the festival with features and other shorts. Most of them will play together on February 27th in one block. For tickets and more information go here

COUNTRY: PORTRAITS OF AN AMERICAN SOUND

The history of country music as told by some of the genre's biggest names (Garth Brooks, Tanya Tucker, Rosanne Cash, Merle Haggard, Charlie Pride, Brenda Lee, Lyle Lovett, Kenny Rogers...) and the photographs of many of it's photographers (Les Leverett Henry Diltz, Raeanne Rubenstein, David McClister, Michael Wilson...). From the days before it was called country to today the film is an overview of the music millions know and love.

This is a good history of country music that will both entertain and enlighten anyone who wants to have a basic knowledge of the the development of the genre. Filled with lots of remembrances and and even more great photography this is a great way to get to know the through line of the country.

While the film is a good introduction and is entertaining it has a couple of problems that keep from being a great film.

Because the film is nominally, and unevenly, about the role of photography in country music the actual history of the music suddenly stops or goes off on a tangent as we get a discussion of the work of this photographer or that one. Then just as you begin to think it's about to stay on point the film suddenly veers off again to continue on the history of the music.

The other problem is that while the film is full of music there was a point about a half an hour in when I suddenly realized that even though we are seeing all of these stars we are not actually hearing much their music. Yes there are snippets but more often than not the key music (some of the early recorded songs) or key events (Ray Charles's country album) are not represented on the soundtrack. Certainly we don't hear songs by many of those interviewed. While I completely understand the problem is music rights, it makes for an odd doc when you can't hear the sounds that are being talked about. In a weird way discussion of the say the Bakersfield Sound only makes sense if you know the artists they are talking about.

You have to forgive me I really like this film but it's kind of an odd duck- a film that is trying to be about two things country music and photography that doesn't wholly strike the right balance and which doesn't always give us the audio to fully understand the arc of the music. If you can go with the film for what it is I highly recommend it,

Ultimately though the film  points up the fact that some one needs to do a longer deeper history of country music that can get it all together... perhaps even director Steven Kochones who clearly knows what he' doing-he just needed a bigger canvas to do it on.

COUNTRY hits VOD and home video tomorrow


Discount for the Opening Weekend of NYICFF



I just got an email from NYICFF that said if buy six or more tickets 6 certain screenings you'll get 6 dollars off each ticket:

Bring your friends to the Fest!
We've been around for 20 years, but there are many New Yorkers who still haven't experienced the magic and excitement of our groundbreaking, thought-provoking, international films. So we're highlighting the best films for new audience members - a perfect introduction to all the Fest has to offer. Bring a group of six or more to any of the screenings listed below on Opening Weekend and get $6 off each ticket (and prove to your friends you're the coolest in the group)!

The films are:

SHORTS 1 Sat. Feb 25 - 10:30am Cinépolis Chelsea
LITTLE MOUNTAIN BOY Sat. Feb 25 - 11:00am Scandinavia House
RUDOLF THE BLACK CAT Sat. Feb 25 - 12:30pm Cinépolis Chelsea
SHORTS 2 Sun. Feb 26 - 10:30am Cinépolis Chelsea
MR FROG Sun. Feb 26 - 12:30pm SVA Theatre
PANDA GO PANDA Sun. Feb 26 - 2:30pm SVA Theatre

For tickets and more information go here

My Life as a Zucchini (2016) New York International Children's Film Festival

Short (it runs just over an hour) animated film was the Swiss entry in the Foreign Language Oscar race. It is also one of the best reviewed animated films of 2016, and one of those films that is GKids is bringing to US audiences because its a great film that would confound any other studio and they are the only ones who will have any clue how to market it.

Based on a well loved novel by Gilles Paris, ZUCCHINI, or COURGETTE in the original, is a very bittersweet look at childhood, ts a film that is going to play differently depending upon where you are age wise since the older you are the more you are going to connect with many of the notions because you'll have actually lived though more of what happens. While the film has a certain amount of darkness, the film is ultimately a hopeful look at how one gets a family. I'm told the film is toned down from the source novel which could be rather bleak, just like childhood.

The plot of the film has a boy who is called Zucchini by his mother moving to an orphanage. It seems that Zucchini has accidentally killed his mother and his father is nowhere around. As he adjusts to life and makes friends he ends up smitten with a Camille, a rebellious young woman who is dumped there by her aunt.

Told in a series of expanding vignettes that show the passage of time ZUCCHINI is a magical film that really will remind adults what its like to be a child. Granted we were not all orphans but but we all had to interact with other kids and adults and this film manages to reveal that perfectly. We have been here before or at least been there in some form or another. It is beautifully modulated so that there is laughter with the tears.

Everything about the film is near perfect from the voice cast to the visuals it all comes together to make a film that is going to sing in the hearts of many people who see it. Watching it I couldn't help but think how many people I knew who were going to absolutely fall in love with the film. This is a film that is going to go into that warm place that that many people keep reserved for their most cherished films such as the work of Studio Ghibli, not because it shows us an idealized version of childhood, rather because it shows us childhood as lived that makes it okay to remember it all.

I love the film a great deal.

If I had to be pick on the film for anything it is it's incredibly brief running time. Shorn of it's end credits and it's brief mid credit "actor interview" the film only runs about 61 minutes. The film feels much too short. The film has barely grabbed you by the heart strings when it's ending. Its a rare film that you can argue should be longer.

The film hits theaters beginning Friday. That is also the night it is opening the New York International Children's FIlm Festival

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nightcap 2/19/17 New York Children's Film Festival Starts Friday. Winter Film Awards Starts Thursday, Happy Birthday to Unseen Films, ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS and THE GREAT WALL

Window Horses one of the best films of 2016 is the hidden treasure of NYICFF 2017

Friday is the start of 20th annual New York Children’s Film Festival

That should have sent you to the NYICFF website to buy tickets if you haven’t already because festivals don’t get better than this.

As I have been saying for the last two decades you don’t have to be a kid simply love good films to go. And if you don’t trust my opinion regarding what’s good consider that it is a qualifying festival for short films for the Oscars. Also consider that they are programing Oscar nominated features a year before they are nominated. Yes they are that good.

Our coverage is going to run through the entire festival. This year I’m not going to be close to covering everything – there are too many conflicts within the festival for it to work for me. (I’m sorry I could ask for screeners and get you coverage that way but NYICFF is one fest you need to be in the trenches for to understand why it rocks- the staff, the volunteers and the audiences are to be cherished and being there is the among the best film going experiences I have each year)

Go buy tickets.

Our coverage begins tomorrow with my review of MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI. Joe Bendel reviewed it earlier for Sundance (link below)- but I’m taking a crack at it as well. Then we’ll be reporting from each day attended- which looks to be most of them.

My advice is not to wait and go yourself- there is some great stuff screening so go buy tickets.

If you aren’t buying tickets to everything here is our NYICFF MUST LIST

WINDOW HORSES (one of 2016's best films)
MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI (Joe Bendel's review)
PANDA GO PANDA- Its Miyazaki working in support of Isao Takahata. Its goofy and silly and just fun. (Just don't expect the depth of Ghibli)
Anything else they screen-no I'm serious anything they screen is worth trying. I mean that- and after 20 years there has only been a single film that I really didn't feel that belonged there.

For tickets and more information go here.

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Thursday The Winter Film Awards Film Festival begins and for me it’s one of the great discoveries of the year. While this is the festival’s sixth year this is the first year that I have actually interacted with it. That’s not meant to be anything bad, its simply to say that since Unseen covers around 60 festivals a year so we miss some- even here in our home of New York City.

I had the festival put squarely on my radar when I was sent an email asking if I wanted to cover it. I was originally going to just put together a cut and paste piece concerning the fest but then I started to look at the festival’s films and suddenly I realized that there was a large number of films that I wanted to see – I mean a really large number of films. I then chucked the idea of a cut and paste and emailed the festival to ask about coverage.

What came of the exchange of emails is that I’ve now seen about twenty of the films they are screening, both features and shorts and I have to say that this a festival that is wonderfully curated. As I’ve said I’ve seen twenty films and none of them is really bad. I think the worst thing I have to say about any of the films is that if I was seeing it outside of the festival I would have raved about it but basically it’s the least jewel in an embarrassment of riches.

This is an amazing festival.

What I love about it is that they have scheduled the screenings in blocks of two and a half hours or more. What you get is either a huge block of shorts or a mix of features and shorts together (and even some double features). You are most certainly getting your money’s worth. Pick a film and try something. Odds are you’ll like what you see- and if one thing doesn't float your boat something else in the block will..

We will have reviews starting tomorrow and running through the festival but to get you started here are my personal recommendations:

Rain The Color Blue With Some Red In It- premiered at the Harlem Film Festival. A riff on PURPLE RAIN but set in Africa this film was one of the great finds of 2016 and now it's back and it's a must see. (click on the link for my review)
Be Afraid- a scary throwback to there is something weird going on in the woods horror film
Lila- a beautiful semi animated short about a girl who’s sketches bring whatever is missing into life. One of my favorite films so far this year
Moon of a Sleepless Night- charming short about a boy and a squirrel who have to free the moon from a tree
Train Driver’s Diary- fantastic feature about a train driver and his adopted son. Great people mix with a dark humor to make something special
Corpse Series- one of the funniest films of any length from the last several years is a bloody vulgar comedy about two roommates who keep ending up with dead bodies. One of the best films I've seen in 2017
Zombies-a very good film about two people trapped in a room during a zombie apocalypse

Go see something. Go to the website and get tickets
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It’s birthdays all around- today is my brother  and occasional contributor Joe’s Birthday (Happy Birthday baby bro) and tomorrow is Unseen Film’s Birthday. Tomorrow we will be seven and as I always say at this time – how the hell did we get here?

I have no clue.

I babbled back in January about the future so I won’t do that now-more so because things have shifted again- but more on that another time.

I would like to take the time to thank you all for reading. Over the last seven years where I went from one guy in a room writing to a website that has 17 regular contributors and many more occasional ones. We’ve gone from no one knowing who we were to being a place some filmmakers seek out because we were recommended to them. Our reviews have been quoted in trailers, on posters and in other promotional material.

Who would have thought it?

We are now, as we have always been, rough jagged and imperfect but always heartfelt. We say what we feel and speak our minds. I love that Unseen is a place where you can get a second opinion and are pointed toward things that aren't part of the herd.

I could go on  but I'm going to skip it this year and just say thank you again for coming along on this long crazy trip.

Lastly I have to thank (alphabetically) Alec, Ariela, Bob, Bully, Dave, Eden, Greg, Hubert JB, Joe, John, Ken, Lauren, Lesley, Nate, Pat, Peter, Randi, Roy, for helping make Unseen what it is. You guys and gals are the heart of the Unseen Family and I love you all dearly.
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Briony Kidd's THE ROOM ON AT THE TOP OF THE STARS is currently on the Shudder streaming service. The film is the story of an art student who takes the room of a former student who seems to still be haunting the room.

Its a very good short film that is worth a look see.

(Sorry I'm saying more it's one of those shorts you need to see and not read about)
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I saw THE GREAT WALL in IMAX 3D yesterday and had a blast.

Essentially men and women in armor fighting monsters this film is eye candy of the highest order. There is no depth but that which we bring to it- it's just soldiers and monsters fighting.

I know the casting of Matt Damon has resulted in flack but be honest there are no characters only archetypes. If you dropped in Asian actors into the film it would play exactly the same.

The ten year old in me thinks this is the greatest film ever-its what I would have done with action figures.

THE GREAT WALL is ultimately our dreams made real. It is what cinema is all about.

It is probably one of my favorite films of 2017.
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No links this week- sorry
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This week is full of new releases and festival reviews.

John Wick Chapter 2 (2017)

Beginning with a chase that happens not long after the first film ends John Wick Chapter 2 is a non-stop action film that doesn’t end so much as pauses long enough for the series third chapter to be filmed.

The plot of the film has Wick resetting his life after the events of the first film. Just as he literally finishes burying his past an old ally appears calling in the marker that helped him achieve his impossible task. Since Wick stepped back on the path Santino D'Antonio said he felt he could ask Wick for the return of the favor. When Wick refuses Santino blows up his house. Wick then reluctantly completes the task- killing Santino‘s sister- only to find Santino has put a 7 million dollar bounty on his head- because Wick killed his sister and protocol demands that he get revenge. This sets up a gauntlet as Wick must fight to stay alive and to get revenge.

The Boogey Man is alive and killing. A wild and wonton shoot ‘em up this is high octane filmmaking of the highest order. It’s more of the same and then some. It wonderfully expands the Wick universe with many new details and characters while remaining true to the old formula. It’s a blast and a half. If the film is a degree lesser than the first film, it’s only because the sense of wonder the first film created is missing- we know what we are getting. I had a blast. And while I am not happy that the film sets up a third film, the place the film leaves off is the perfect place to hit pause until next we wade into to the insanity once more.

I do have to say that I was in hysterics regarding the film’s sense of New York City- because the film doesn’t have one. Wick enters the The Continental in lower Manhattan and comes out on a roof garden almost 100 blocks north across from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. Wick and Common enter a subway station near Lincoln Center to appear at the Occulus at the World Trade Center. They are on a platform for the Path Train to New Jersey when a C subway train is announced. They then fight on the train as announcements for the E train are made listing stops that are on the 1 or R and W lines.

Silliness of geography aside John Wick Chapter 2 is a must see and highly recommended- just make sure you’ve seen the first film

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)


Hacksaw Ridge would seem to be an odd Oscar contender. The first word on the film was excellent but when it came out critics liked it but didn’t love it. Its odd mix of old school sensibilities with modern realistic war violence jangled some writers who liked part of the film but not the other. For me the film is a masterful technical achievement and if it doesn’t quite nail perfection it still ranks as one of the most arresting war films I’ve seen while at the same time being a grand examination of faith and belief.

The film in nominally the Desmond Doss the first man who was a conscientious objector to win the (Congressional) Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Doss managed to save the lives of 75 men during the battle on what became known as Hacksaw Ridge before being wounded and carried off the battlefield himself. I say nominally because director Mel Gibson and his writers Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight have refashioned the story to compress the battle into a couple of days and leave out that Doss and his men had fought in Guam and the Philippines before the assault on the ridge. This isn’t to lessen what Doss did, rather to say that what Doss actually did was even more amazing.

Gibson’s film is a decided throwback to old Hollywood. The first hour of the film where Dos is seen growing up and going through basic training is the sort of old school Hollywood film we’ve seen a thousand times before. A stern dad, loving mother raise their boy to overcome adversity. The guys in the army are on some level your typical grunt. Gibson is keeping everything simple. In the second hour, as the men get to the ridge the film becomes a hellish nightmare. We get a taste of it at the start but it isn't until the battle actually starts that the notion of war being hell and the true meaning of the chaos of war truly comes into play.

Gibson’s use of old school stylings is brilliant. While it seems to simplify things it actually gives a greater emotional resonance. Gibson can work more starkly- the divisions between characters are greater. Doss’s actions seem more heroic. Because he alters our perceptions to a time before he makes the blood and gore more shocking once the battle happens. The perfect compositions and leisurely paced first hour make the total chaos of the final 80 minutes all that more over whelming.We have no sense of place other than where we are at that moment. There are no wide shots or anything but the ground and the craters the soldiers experience. Rarely has a narrative feature shown the hell of battle this brutally. Even most people’s bell weather Saving Private Ryan wasn’t this graphic or disorienting.

Gibson isn't just telling  a story. Gibson is ruminating on the notion of faith, belief and what a hero is. The notions of it run through the film from start to finish and they are what make HACKSAW RIDGE more than just a war film.

I know some people have scoffed at the religious bent of the film. I've had discussions with a couple of people who think Gibson went over board, but at the same time this seems to be who Doss was. On top of that the film is a kind of hero's journey or spiritual quest of the true believer to find salvation. This is a refashioning of the tale in terms that Joseph Campbell might use. If the belief in god offends you see it as an allegory.

Gibson is also very interested in what is a hero. Yes it's very easy to give lip service to the notion that Doss was a hero, Gibson on the other  hand wants you to understand why. That is and what the notion of his heroics really are. We also get a lovely sense of why and how Doss turned out as he did because of the sequences with his father, in particular the sequence when he shows up at the court martial in his old uniform to essentially join his brother in arms.

HACKSAW RIDGE is a masterpiece. It is one of the truly great war films. It confirms, despite his personal nonsense, that Gibson is one of the best directors working today with everyone of his films being moving visceral experiences.

A must see

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The 7th Annual Queens World Film Festival has annouced their line up and tickets are now on sale

QWFF Festival Directors Don & Katha Cato Announced the 2017 Line up for the 7th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) as well as the "Spirit of Queens" Honoree, the Venues

On Valentines Day the Festival producers, filmmakers and other invited guests gathered at MOMI in Astoria to help kick off the festivities leading up to the 7th annual Queens World Film Festival. Over 50 filmmakers from around the globe and around the boro were in attendance joined by Sponsors, Elected Officials and QWFF community partners.

QWFF Artistic Director Don Cato introduced special guests (filmmakers, honorees, Sponsors and partners) and announced the final selections/schedule/special events/venues & Honorees for The 7th Annual Queens World Film Festival (QWFF) at the Museum of the Moving Image‎ (MoMI), in Astoria, Queens, NY. The Festival is Scheduled for March 14-19, 2017.

Each year, the Queens World Film Festival pays tribute to an outstanding filmmaker for his or her body of work. This year's "Spirit of Queens" Award goes to Queens native independent film director Julie Dash. Her 1991 masterpiece, “Daughters of the Dust” will be showcased at MoMI on Wednesday night, March 15 7-10pm. The screening will be followed by a conversation with Ms. Dash. The incredible Illusions by Ms. Dash will also be screened within another BLOCK of films screened at MoMI on Friday March 18.

The Queens World Film Festival engages audiences with targeted outreach to the diverse communities that comprise the borough of Queens.‎ QWFF Artistic Director Don Cato ‎states that "This year's 135 films come from 25 nations whose diasporas are represented in Queens, the ‘World’s Borough’. These films examine love, loss, immigration, mental health and some take on these themes in progressive ground breaking style. These films promise to move and entertain our audiences.”

Queens World Film Festival sponsors include Kaufman Astoria Studios, Investors Bank, MYNYCB, Council Member Daniel Dromm and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, The Queens Post and the Times Ledger

Highlights of the Festival include the March 14, Opening Night at MoMI kick off at 7pm with a VIP reception with the 2017 filmmakers and 2017 Honoree Julie Dash and other special guests. The program starts at 8:00 and Queens native Ms. Dash will receive the 2017 Spirit of Queens Award for her outstanding contribution to cinema – indie or otherwise. Her work is majestic and intimate, assertive and nuanced. The night will also feature NYC’s elected officials, QWFF sponsors and partners and five short films that will give the audience a glimpse of what is to come during Festival Week 2017.

On March 18, 5:30pm Museum of the Moving Image, Redstone Theatre:
Adam Green’s Aladdin features Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone) leading an enthusiastic cast through the wildest adaptation of this classic that you will ever see. Also staring Alia Shawkat (State of Grace, Arrested Development, Search Party).

On March 16, 8:00 pm Museum of the Moving Image, Redstone Theatre
World Premier of Searching for Fortune staring John Heard (The Sopranos, Big, The Milagro Beanfield War, Awakenings, Home Alone, Radio Flyer, The Pelican Brief, White Chicks, Miami Vice, etc. etc. etc.) A family drama about a woman who tracks down her recently deceased husband's brother and reveals a 25 year old family secret.

On March 18 8:00 pm Museum of the Moving Image, Redstone Theatre
North American Premier of Scumbag (World Premier at the prestigious International Film Festival at Rotterdam) "The Wolf of Wall Street" meets "Kids" starring every punk legend since the 70s'. starring Princess Frank, Debra Haden, Nick Zedd, Michael Alig, Neon Music, Goddess Bunny, Keith Morris, Angelo Moore, Monique Parent, Jael De Pardo, Don Bolles, Kid Congo Powers, Scott E. Myers, Ron Jeremy, Cindy Lucas, Penny Arcade, Nina Hartley, Brian Soigne and Deluxe Wilso.

On March 18 2:45 MoMI – Bartos Theatre
AFTER SCHOOL by the rising star Alec Tibaldi, an alumni of QWFF, who’s 2016 film Ride or Die won the QWFF 2016 Best Ensemble Award. AFTER SCHOOL is another sterling example of great directing, acting and production and stars Ruby Modine (Shameless) and the young and extremely promising Piper De Palma whose father is film director Brian De Palma.

And there are 130 more incredible, intriguing, challenging, works including 4 about the undocumented Immigrant experience and four more featuring challenging mental health conditions. There 6 beautiful LGBT films, an animation about brotherly love that will break your heart, thrillers, chillers and all out high high camp.

The World’s Borough is well represented with 23 films from Queens, 16 from Manhattan, 17 from Brooklyn and 1 from the Bronx. There are 12 from Germany, 7 from Spain, 4 from Iran and 8 films are by Asian filmmakers from all over NYC. We have 50 films by women and three films that were collaborative efforts from educational institutions.

In addition to producing the annual Queens World Film Festival, the organization programs films year-round at a variety of borough venues through its “Encore” and “Old Spice” screening series, and through its “Young Filmmakers” training program.‎

The Queens World Film Festival is a program of the Queens World Film Initiative, Inc., a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization.

FOR FULL SCHEDULE:‎ www.queensworldfilmfestival.com

Hidden Figures (2016)


Hidden Figures is the story of three African American women who were vital to the American space program. Doing the calculations before the days when computers did the heavy lifting the three women and their sisters were the reason we got into space. Their work was so trusted that John Glenn wouldn’t make his historic flight unless Katherine Johnson herself said that it was possible.

Hailed by many people as one of the best films of the year and currently in the running for the Best Picture Oscar the film is a wonderful historical drama about how three women broke through the racist and sexist attitudes of the all-white male hierarchy of NASA. It’s a film that clearly show that what you do is ultimately more important than what you appear to be. Hidden Figures will make you feel good as it makes you think about racism and sexism.

My problem is that there is very little surprise or suspense. Because of the marketing of the film and the elevator pitch descriptions of the plot we know where this is going. I thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of the film but I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t more suspense. I wish there was something that kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s a quibble I know but it kept me from calling this one of the best of the best films I’ve seen this year.

Quibbles or no the film is highly recommended

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Man of Good Hope at BAM

A Good Man of Hope currently play a very brief run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music is a tough play/musical. The story of Asad Abdullahi, a Somali refugee, who has spent his life trying to find a better life despite all that life throws at him is a tough play. Bad things happen, a lot of bad things and it’s hard not to feel as beaten up by his life as the man himself. The whole thing takes on even darker tones thanks to Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and we quickly see what can happen if we allow stupider heads to prevail.

The play started as a series of interviews Asad gave to Jonny Steinberg who, at first thought his story would be 10 to 20 pages in a book on refugees. However Steinberg realized there was a whole story here and he changed the focus of the book. The book was then turned into a musical by the Isango Ensemble and the Young Vic.

The show is framed by  Asad giving an interview to Steinberg. The play then flashes back to the day when Asad watched his mother die after being shot by Somali rebels. What then follows is thirty year march as friends and family, wives and children come and go and Asad simply tries to go on. It’s a story that will break your heart as people die, the locals abuse him for being an immigrant and all his possessions are stripped away. Light and happy it is not. It’s the first time I've ever seen a story that makes you feel pain when a character says he’s coming to America.

Seeing the show four weeks into the Trump administration was incredibly tough. Here on stage was the true life story of what could and will happen if the president’s worst nature is allowed to fan the flames of hatred across the country. There were frequent uneasy ripples of emotion through the audience as lines and actions took on unexpected and shattering meanings in the wake of the president's first month of insane rantings. The way the story plays out now, in this place, especilly in Brooklyn and its multicultural community was nothing BAM or the theater companies could have known when they booked the engagement.

I cannot explain what the effect of the show was on the audience last night except to say that when the show ended there was a stunned silence. No one wanted to move, I'm not sure some of us could. While the whole audience rose to their feet as one very few applauded to start, they simply stared at the stage in shell shock, it was as if they didn't know how to applaud. Then as the cast waved and smiled, applause grew as those around us came out of a spell. The applause grew louder through each of the three curtain calls. Then the audience filed quietly out into the night- few people talking. We were all stunned into silence laid low by the life of one man and his drive to go on.

A Good Man of Hope is the very definition of affecting theater.

And I need to say this really isn’t a happy musical. Asad whose story this is hasn’t read the book of his life. Steinberg says that the reason is that the only way that Asad can go on is by facing forward and not looking back. As is implied in play and even in Steinberg‘s pieces on the book the reason is Asad doesn’t want to face the sadness once again. To be honest had I known what the play was I probably would not have bought tickets. However now that I’ve seen it I’ve seen a theater piece that I can’t shake and has left me rattled in the best way possible.

If you can get to BAM before the run ends this weekend, do so, just be prepared to be broken.

Man of Good Hope plays through Sunday February 19th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. For more information and tickets go here.

The Great Wall: A Monster Co-Production

They first crawled out of the earth centuries ago, yet somehow the swarms of Taotie lizard-beasts represent modern commercial values sweeping across China. Only collective action can stand against them—and perhaps a hotdogging Western adventurer. Or maybe they are just monsters who need killing. If you can work with it on that level, Zhang Yimou’s mega-budget co-production The Great Wall is rather enjoyable viewing when it opens today nationwide.

Evidently, the Taotie first spewed forth as punishment for a venal emperor’s greed. Every sixty years they return, strewing havoc in their wake. That is why subsequent emperors built that large wall thingy and it is probably why they also invented gunpowder before the West. They were highly motivated. A group of blundering Western mercenaries came to China hoping to acquire game-changing quantities of the “black powder,” but they have been much abused by the indigenous Khitan of the north. Yet, somehow the two survivors, Irishman William Garin and Spaniard Pero Tovar, manage to dispatch a Taotie scout.

In most respects, the Westerners’ timing is pretty terrible. They are about to be capture by the Nameless Order, the elite corps that stands guard on the Great Wall, just as the Taotie attack—six weeks early. Both will distinguish themselves during the initial battle, but Tovar is biding his time, hoping to score some black powder and make a break for it, whereas Garin’s long dormant idealism starts to stir, like a Medieval Rick Blaine.

There is no getting around the film’s greatest weakness. That is obviously Matt O’Damon flailing around as Garin. The bad news is his Irish accent is what you might call mushy (seriously, isn’t he from Boston?). The good news is he only uses it about half the time. In contrast, Jing Tian once again proves she can be a flat-out fierce action star, despite her supermodel looks (for further proof checkout how she redeems the conspicuously flawed Special I.D. with her barn-burner fight scene facing off against Andy On). As Commander Lin Mae, she throws down with authority and generally anchors the film with her no-nonsense intensity.

Although movie stars do not get any bigger than Andy Lau, he takes a supporting role in Zhang’s 3D spectacle, but he rather seems to be enjoying the erudite sagaciousness of Strategist Wang, which rubs off on viewers. When the kaiju hordes (or whatever) rampage, you would definitely want his wise counsel. Teen heartthrob Lu Han also helps humanize the rumble as Peng Yong, the sensitive soldier. However, it is always rather confusing whenever Eddie Peng’s Commander Wu pops up. His role is not exactly clear, but he seems to be the Song Dynasty equivalent of a Communist political officer, given his arrogance and authority to insist on unsound military tactics.

Zhang brings quite a bit to the party himself with his visual flash and dazzle. The awesome vistas of the Wall and the teeming throngs of Taotie are perfect for his sensibilities. Plus, Commander Lin’s bungee-jumping shock troops are undeniably cool to behold. That is why the 3D is so frustrating: it definitely makes the film look artificially dark and murky.

So, apparently, the takeaways from Great Wall are walls and gunpowder are both darned useful when you are living in a dangerous world. The notion that Westerners are only out for themselves is not so subtly sewn into its fabric, but at least there is a meeting-of-the-minds between Lin and Garin—chastely so, thanks to Chinese censors. Regardless, it is always fun to watch Zhang, Jing, and Lau do their thing. Recommended for fans of big, noisy special effects movies and fans of the all-star cast, The Great Wall opens today (2/17) in theaters across the City, including the AMC Empire.

Austerlitz (2016) MOMA Doc Fortnight 2017

Observational documentary observes tourists as they walk around and through Auschwitz.

The film is a series of static black and white shots as tourists walk up to to and then through the gates of the concentration camp. We watch as they wander the grounds and buildings and then leave.

For some this is going to be a deeply moving film. For some this is going to be some sort of profound experience making them ponder how the the death camp has kind of become a somber amusement park as visitors wander around kind of blankly. For others this is going to be a long haul  as we simply watch people wander by and tour guides try to explain in various languages what happened.

I don't really have an opinion on the film. To be honest I understand what the film is trying to do and force a confrontation with how a place where millions died is now a place many people really don't understand- but at the same time I don't know if it succeeds. In away there was a point where I started mumbling to myself, "I get it, now what?"

I don't know about the now what part.

If you like observational docs, by all means give this film a shot. All others can take a pass.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Fabricated City: Gamer Gets Played

It takes a real piece of scum to make a lay-about millennial slacker look sympathetic, but an attorney should do the trick. Min Chun-sang will do in spades. He is no mere crooked mouthpiece. The supposed public defender is really the mastermind of a shadowy organization that frames the unemployed and marginalized for murders committed by their powerful clients. Kwon Yoo is their latest victim, but the gamer has more game than they anticipate in Park Kwang-hyun’s Fabricated City, which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles and the Tri-State Area.

It all proceeded according to Min’s usual playbook. A cell phone was left for Kwon Yoo to find, which he readily agrees to return to the owner’s hotel room for a reward, but finds himself framed for murder instead. Kwon Yoo is referred to Min, who does a bang-up job defending him. Nobody was supposed to hear from him once he was safely buried in prison, but the former Taekwondo junior champion has more fight in him then they bargain for. First, he will stand up to the beatings meted out by gangster Ma Deok-soo and his men and then he pulls off an unlikely escape.

Once at-large, he will finally meet-up offline with his online gaming team, Resurrection. Together with their help, especially that of socially awkward hacker Yeo-wool, he investigates his notorious case. When they figure out Min’s culpability, they start taking the fight to his network, so he temporarily springs Ma to do his dirty work.

As Min, Oh Jung-se makes one of the creepiest, clammiest sociopaths (bordering on outright psychopath) you will see in many moons of movies. He is just a vile, oily dog. In short, he is a convincing trial lawyer. TV heartthrob Ji Chang-wook is actually pretty impressive in his first film role, dialing up plenty of righteous outrage as the wronged Kwon Yoo. Shim Eun-kyung (the original Miss Granny) plays effectively against type as shy, reclusive Yeo-wool. Kim Sang-ho also takes a bit of a departure from the shlubby figures he frequently plays, but he records mixed results as the thuggish Ma.

Park stages some nifty car chases and enough explosions to keep even the snobbiest film critic awake, but the best sequences involve Resurrection’s sneaking and scheming. It is a super-slick thriller that never feels its running time (just over two hours, which isn’t as excessive as it sounds, by Korean cinema standards). Recommended for fans of Korean and “wrong man” thrillers, Fabricated City opens tomorrow (2/17) at the LA and Buena Park CGV Cinemas and the Edgewater Multiplex in New Jersey.

Gaza Surf Club (2016)

One of the best films at this year's Doc Fortnight follows a group of surfers as they surf and try to get by in their town in the Gaza Strip.

Truly great film is full of wonderful people incredible images and one hell of a story . Its the tale of a group of people unable to go anywhere so they turn to something that gives them a fleeting sense of freedom. It will make you smile as it breaks your heart.

A quietly political film, there are no grand speeches only aa reporting of life on the sea shore. If one wants to know what the film is all about one need only look at the bombed out building s and listen to the stories of life in the Gaza strip to know what the situation is. Its quiet revelations are more powerful than horrible stories or pictures because through the accumulated time spent with all of the people in the film we come to truly understand what the state of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians is doing to the people and the landscape.

And of course the film is about surfing. Beautifully shot the film has some of the best surfing sequences I've seen in a while.

This is just a great movie.

Highly recommend.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Road to the Well (2016)

Drifter Jack blows back into his friend Frank's life just as his life is going sideways. When a murder occurs occurs the two men decide to bury the body but there are complications on the road to the burial.

Jon Cvack's ROAD TO THE WELL surprised the hell out of me. Not only is it a great little modern film noir, but it's also a film that is so well made and so self assured that I'm having a hard time believing that this is Cvack's first shot at directing. Say what you will a first feature is rarely this well done.

Cvack's tale is a nifty one and I'm having a hard time trying to work out how much to tell you. A layered mystery/crime drama the film is content to show us bits and pieces without comment and let us stew a bit. This is one of those films where something will pass by and then fifteen minutes or more something else will happen and you'll connect up to something that happened earlier, so I'm not sure how much to reveal.

One  has to mention the finely crafted script which moves everyone in a believable fashion. Too often in films like this people are not people they are types. It's an easy short hand that is really avoided here. People behave as if they are regular people which is nice.  Their behavior is true to their own point of view and not that of the audience. Cvack resists the temptation to play many scenes as if there is is anything wrong. More often than not films are set up so when there is something wrong the risk of discovery is played up for tension- here Cvack does the opposite people behave straight forwardly. There is no overt pushing of the tension and the fear. Its a small mater that lets us create the fear.

One should also wax poetic about the look of the film of and of Cvack's use of image and sound to convey story - more often than not what is important is what we see not what we hear. Cva is clearly a director who trusts his audience to pay attention and put all the pieces together.

I really like this film a great deal. This is one I want to revisit since I know I missed stuff the first time through.

Recommended.

ROAD TO THE WELL is out on DVD from The Candy Factory and can be seen via the major VOD outlets.

A MONSTER CALLS (2016)

Fantastical tale of a young boy who is dealing with the slow death of his mother. He is visited by a giant tree monster who helps him deal with grief by telling him stories.

Deeply moving film that impressed the hell out of me. The story is profound in its way, the characters atypical and real. The visual sense is amazing. It is in it's way a damn near perfect cinematic fable whose only flaw being the casting of Sigourney Weaver- not because cause she is bad rathe because she stands out too much.

Despite not wanting to see the film (I have libraries of of undealt with volumes concerning the death of my own mother) I was genuinely moved by the film. I suspect that because I could relate directly to the tale the film meant so much more to me.

I can not say much more than that- except that the final two shots are absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ALI AND NINO (2016)


Beautiful to look and moving story of Ali, a Muslim young man with royal blood who falls in love with Nino, a Christian noble woman during the first World War in Azerbaijan. As the Russian Empire falls and the Bolsheviks conflict arises as the people of Azerbaijan try to stand up to the new oppressors.

One of the best historical romances of recent vintage this film is probably not on anyone's radar thanks to it's being picked up by IFC Films who appear to have simply placed it in to the VOD world with very little promotion. (I certainly did not notice any theatrical release). This is a film for anyone who longs for epic romance on the order of TITANIC or DR ZHIVAGO or any similar romances.

If you love historical films ALI AND NINO is a must.

Currently out on VOD from IFC Films.

Comfort (2016)

Night courier who is allergic to the sun is asked to pick up the daughter of a client at the airport and ends up spending time together as a romance blooms.

Sweet little romance that doesn't follow your typical paths from beginning to end is definitely worth your time. Credit the two leads Chris Dinh and Julie Zhan who lift this up from the heap of inde romances. The couple keep it believable all along the way even when some of the characters around them become a little silly.

I was not going to look at this but I decided to give it a gow when an rain storm became an ice storm and scuttled my outside plans. As result of mother nature interference I ended up seeing a lovely little film that I highly recommend to anyone looking for a solid romance.

Comfort is on VOD today on all the major platforms

Monday, February 13, 2017

Recommendations for this week at the Boston Sci Fi Film Festival


Apologies to the Boston Sci Fi Film Festival, I should have done a curtain raiser for the festival a week ago but things have gotten out of control in the Unseen Films screening rooms.

That said the festival which runs through this weekend has a few really good films coming up that I want to put on your radar (click on the titles to go to our reviews)

If you’ve never seen Kinji Fukasaku's GREEN SLIME this is your chance. A huge head scratcher acid trip from 1969. You may love the film or you may hate it- but either way you will be marked by it, (Plays 2/14)

The chance to see GIANT BEHEMOTH big is not to be missed. Willis Obrien’s film of a sea monster on the loose is a kin to Ray Harryhausen’s Beast from 20,000 Fathoms released a few years later. (Plays 2/14)

THE OPEN is a one of a kind post-apocalyptic film about tennis. That is not a mistake, that’s what it’s about and it’s a kick in the ass. A must see. (Plays 2/15)

Lorcan Finnegan’s WITHOUT NAME is a slow burn masterpiece about a lonely man and the weirdness in the forest. A must see. (An interview with the director is here) (Plays 2/17)

2307: WINTERS DREAM is an excellent post-apocalyptic story about a world shrouded in ice. This is just a quietly great action adventure.

And of course there are many other films as well so go buy tickets and go.

The Dallas Film Society announces the initial eleven official selections for the 11th edition of the Dallas International Film Festival

Jameson Brooks’s BOMB CITY and Micah Barber’s INTO THE WHO KNOWS! will make their world premieres

Other highlights include Stefon Avalos’s Slamdance award-winner, STRAD STYLE, François Ozon’s FRANTZ, Sarah Adina Smith’s BUSTER’S MAL HEART,and James Gray’s THE LOST CITY OF Z.
Bomb City

Dallas, TX (February 13, 2017) – The Dallas Film Society today announced eleven official selections for the 11th edition of the Dallas International Film Festival. Featuring two world premieres (Jameson Brooks’s BOMB CITY and Micah Barber’s INTO THE WHO KNOWS!), the selections are a sampling of several of the non-competitive programming sections that make up Texas’s largest film festival, as well as two films set for this year’s Texas Competition. Led by Stefon Avalos’s Slamdance Film Festival award-winner, STRAD STYLE, the list of titles represents DIFF’s long-standing tradition of programming films that have impressed elsewhere on the film festival circuit, such as François Ozon’s FRANTZ (Sundance), Sarah Adina Smith’s BUSTER’S MAL HEART (Toronto), and James Gray’s THE LOST CITY OF Z (NYFF).

DIFF also announced the film festival will present the Studio Movie Grill Silver Heart Award to the film that best addresses Human Rights issues. A $5,000 cash prize will be presented by the Schultz Family during the Dallas Film Society Honors event presented by the Arthur E. Benjamin Foundation on Friday, April 7, as DIFF continues its decade-long tradition of looking beyond the artistic value of film to the impact on the community, either via environmental, or in this case, human rights issues, as well. The Silver Heart Award is bestowed on an individual or film for their dedication to fighting injustices and/or creating social change for the improvement of humanity.

“Dallas film audiences are among the most knowledgeable, diverse, and enthusiastic in the entire country,” said James Faust, Artistic Director of the Dallas Film Society. “Therefore, programming the Dallas International Film Festival is always an exercise in striking a balance by finding films that appeal to the savvy cinephile, and the weekend escape-seeking film fan, as well as everyone in between. This year, we have already had great success securing films that impressed us at other prominent film festivals around the world, to discovering brand new gems, which will make their debut right here at DIFF.”
Franz

This year’s Texas Competition, presented by Panavision, which promotes the state’s impressive home-grown filmmaking talent by focusing on films produced and shot in Texas, includes the world premiere of Jameson Brooks’s drama BOMB CITY, about a controversial hate-crime that took place in a small, conservative Texas town. Also competing in the category is Jason Headley’s comedy A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG about two would-be thieves that bungle their way into a hostage situation during a poorly-planned break-in.

The second announced world premiere selection, Micah Barber’s INTO THE WHO KNOWS! about a boy and his best friend, Felix the Fox, that escape summer camp to embark on a big mystical adventure, will make its debut as part of DIFF’s very popular Family Friendly section. Also screening will be Tony Shaff’s documentary 44 PAGES, which tells the surprising story of Highlights Magazine, and screens at DIFF immediately following its debut at SXSWedu in March.

DIFF’s Premiere Series will include; Smith’s mind-bender BUSTER’S MAL HEART, which stars Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek as a mountain man drifter who had a life-changing run-in with a stranger obsessed with a conspiracy theory; Ozon’s drama FRANTZ, about a woman coming to terms with the death of her fiancé in World War I; and Gray’s true-life epic THE LOST CITY OF Z, which follows the tale of British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in the 1920s.

Avalos’s STRAD STYLE, which won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the recently concluded Slamdance Film Festival, and Matt Schrader’s SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY, are the first two selections announced from DIFF’s beloved Deep Ellum Sounds section. The music-themed documentary section hails back to the film festival’s roots in the colorful music-infused neighborhood with the Deep Ellum Film Festival, which was the precursor to the Dallas International Film Festival. STRAD STYLE follows the efforts of a man in Ohio, who decides he can build a classic Stradivarius violin, and SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY, looks at the art of film scoring via interviews with nearly every prominent film composer on the scene today.
Lost City of Z

Rounding out the first selections revealed to the public are Steve James’s ABACUS: TOO SMALL TO JAIL, about the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and Alejandro Molina’s THE PRESENT ONES (Los Presentes), about an actress having identity issues after returning to play a character that gets under her skin just as she faces a relationship crisis. ABACUS: TOO SMALL TO JAIL will screen as part of DIFF’s Documentary Showcase, and marks the fourth of James’s films to be a part of the festival. THE PRESENT ONES is part of DIFF’s Latino Cinema Showcase.

Once again, the Dallas Film Society has teamed up with DART for their successful partnership DART to DIFF. Many DIFF activities and events take place in the heart of Dallas and the partnership with DART will provide quick and convenient transportation for all festival attendees.

Online ticket sales will be available for Dallas Film Society members beginning Monday, March 13 at DallasFilm.org, and will open to the public on Thursday, March 16. The physical Prekindle Box Office will open on Thursday, March 20.
Into The WHo Knows!

The eleven official selections include:

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL
Director: Steve James
Country: USA, Running Time: 88min
ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL tells the incredible saga of the Chinese immigrant Sung family, owners of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, New York. Accused of mortgage fraud by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., Abacus becomes the only U.S. bank to face criminal charges in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The indictment and subsequent trial forces the Sung family to defend themselves – and their bank’s legacy in the Chinatown community – over the course of a five-year legal battle.

A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG
Director: Jason Headley
Country: USA, Running Time: 85min
A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG is a comedy about two would-be thieves who accidentally arm the alarm system and have to break out of the house they just broke into. When they discover an unexpected house sitter, they suddenly have to deal with a hostage situation, double crosses, sexual tensions, and discoveries that make their difficult escape even more dubious.

BOMB CITY
Director: Jameson Brooks
Country: USA, Running Time: 93min
BOMB CITY is a gritty-drama, about the hatred and oppression of a group of punk revolutionaries in a conservative Texas town. Their ongoing battle with a rival clique leads to one of the most controversial hate crimes the U.S. has ever seen. Based on the true story of Brian Deneke.

BUSTER’S MAL HEART
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Country: USA, Running Time: 96min
In this bold thriller spiked with dark humor, Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) is Buster, a family man whose chance encounter with a conspiracy-obsessed drifter leaves him on the run from the police and an impending event known as The Inversion.

44 PAGES
Director: Tony Shaff
Country: USA, Running Time: 97min
44 PAGES is a portrait of Highlights Magazine following the creation of the cultural phenomenon's 70th Anniversary issue, from the first editorial meeting to its arrival in homes, and introducing the quirky people who passionately produce the monthly publication for "the world's most important people,"...children. Along the way, a rich and tragic history is revealed, the state of childhood, technology, and education is explored, and the future of print media is questioned.

FRANTZ
Director: François Ozon
Country: France/Germany, Running Time: 113min
A haunting tale of love and reconciliation begins in a small town in Germany in the immediate aftermath of World War I when a young woman mourning the death of her fiancé encounters a mysterious Frenchman laying flowers on her beloved’s grave.

INTO THE WHO KNOWS!
Director: Micah Barber
Country: USA, Running Time: 72min
Ten-year old Thomas has a best friend: Felix the Fox. But his parents want him to make “real friends”, so they send him to summer camp. However, he hates it, so he and Felix make a midnight escape. Deep in the forest of the Who Knows they pursue a mythical being called the Totem, and decide to catch it.

THE LOST CITY OF Z
Director: James Gray
Country: USA, Running Time: 141min
A true-life drama, centering on British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.

THE PRESENT ONES (LOS PRESENTES)
Director: Alejandro Molina
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 90min
Ana, a former actress, gets the chance to reunite herself with Ophelia, a character she played years ago on the stage, when she met and fell for the man who is her husband now. However, at this point in her life, her marriage is facing a difficult time, tenuously kept together is their 6-year old son. By playing the character, and “becoming” Ophelia once again, and under stressful circumstances, Ana suffers a personality split which leads her to an extreme and life changing juncture, something she has never faced before.

SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY
Director: Matt Schrader
Country: USA, Running Time: 93min
SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY brings Hollywood's premiere composers together to give viewers a privileged look inside the musical challenges and creative secrecy of the world's most widely known music genre: the film score.

STRAD STYLE
Director: Stefan Avalos
Country: USA, Running Time: 104min
STRAD STYLE follows a backwoods dreamer from Ohio with an obsession for 'Stradivari' and all things violin, who, through the magic of social-media, convinces a famous European concert violinist that he can make a copy of the most famous and valuable violin in the world. Fighting time, poverty, and most of all - himself - Danny Houck puts everything on the line for one shot at glory.
Strad Style


ABOUT THE DALLAS FILM SOCIETY
The Dallas Film Society celebrates films and their impact on society. A 501(c)(3) non- profit organization, the Dallas Film Society recognizes and honors filmmakers for their achievements in enhancing the creative community, provides educational programs to students to develop a better understanding of the role of film in today’s world, and promotes the City of Dallas and its commitment to the art of filmmaking. The annual Dallas International Film Festival is a presentation of the Dallas Film Society and has been named by Movie Maker Magazine as one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” In addition to producing one of the largest festivals in the Southwest, the Society produces numerous year round events, film screening series and programs in partnership with arts organizations around the city. The offices of the Dallas Film Society are located at 110 Leslie Street, Suite 200, Dallas, TX 75207. For more information about the Dallas Film Society and its ongoing events, visit www.dallasfilm.org or call (214) 720-0555.
Buster's Mal Heart