Wednesday, June 19, 2013
The film follows a noble prize winner living in the basement of the history museum. He is there with his wife and several other people. During the days he travels from place to place trying to find out what’s going on and get supplies. In order to pass the time he composes letters to his son.
At last a post-apocalyptic film that feels right. Gone are the nonsense of most American films (mutants and roving bands of bad guys), here is a world on the verge of death- there is no sign of nature other than wind and rain. People are struggling on not sure of what to do. The government is in a kind of control, which they seem to have because people want there to be order. People are dirty. Things are broken. It looks like things have been bad for a long time. It’s a film that feels like it has been lived in, perhaps even slept in. This is the apocalypse of your nightmares…or it will be once you’ve seen it.
This is the story of the end of us. Hollywood and other filmmakers have made similar films but they have always made it easy and simple. From Testament to On the Beach to almost any other end of the world in nuclear war they have things pretty much as they are until people just quietly die. It never felt right to me, it felt like an affectation and not reality. Here it all feels right. War came and we all got caught in it.
If there is a flaw in the film it’s that some of the talk seems rather too intellectual, but I suspect that since our hero is a highly intelligent man this would be the head space he lives in.
I really like this film a great deal. It is, for lack of better word a breath of fresh air. It’s a film about the end that gives you pause about life and its end.
This is one to track down if you’re tired of the same old Hollywood crap.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
I recently was lucky enough to be able to see Bert and Arnie's Guide to Friendship before it was released on various VOD platforms today. The film is also getting a week long run at Brooklyn's IndeScreen starting Friday. The short version of this short review is it's worth the effort to either get it on VOD or to see it at IndeScreen.
The film stars Matt Oberg as Bert a married author and Stephen Schneider is Arnie a self professed ladies man. The film begins with both men being interviewed by an off camera person, they both think it's to be about something else, instead the interviewer wants them to talk about each other, which is not the best thing since it's clear that there is a rift between them. Eventually we get the story of how they met and why they are no longer getting along - Arnie slept with Bert's wife and things happened as a result.
An amusing comedy that is better than most recent inde comedies I've been seeing lately, this is also one of the few recent films to make me laugh out loud repeatedly. While they weren't deep belly laughs, they were in fact good hearty laughs that kept me smiling between each chuckle. I say this because there have been a couple of recent comedies which I liked, which made me smile and feel good but didn't really produce any laughs (Gerard Butler's Playing For Keeps for example).
That the film works as well as it does is due entirely to the cast, especially Oberg and Schneider who manage to sell their characters and their friendship with a bit more authority than you'd expect.
I really like the film a great deal and if I'm not waxing poetic or rambling on about it it's more an indication that some films really don't need to be explained, they simply need to be enjoyed. Go enjoy.
Deeply moving film follows Prachett as he talks to two people with motor disease as they consider whether to end their lives. Both are fighting a losing battle with just being able to get around. Both of them are unsure if they would in fact end their lives, but they want to keep their options open and go out on their own terms. Prachett also speaks with a doctor connected with Dignitas in Switzerland who explains what they will or won't do (They'll help but they won't kill you).
The show is full of food for thought and it doesn't shy away from anything, we watch one man pass away surrounded by his family.(We should all go that quietly) It deals with things head on taking on the questions of choice and the complications of suicide for some people (as Prachett says in order to be able to go of his own choosing he would have to go much earlier than he probably would like since when the Alzheimer's would be bad enough that he would want to go he wouldn't be in a place to consent.)
I'm shocked and moved and made incredibly thoughtful. Its an important issue that is well done and well reasoned. I can't really say more than that because how you react to the film will ultimately depend upon your own beliefs and experience...for that reason you should see this important film and make up your own mind.
Monday, June 17, 2013
The film played last year at the Tribeca Film Festival where both Mondocurry and myself saw the film.
Mondo’s review, which is very positive can be found here
My original take which is a bit mixed is here, I have seen the slightly shorter POVcut of the film and I like it more. I thought it was tighter snd more to the point. I've also softened toward the longer version and find that which ever way you see it it's worth doing.
There are exceptions of course, one of which is American Flyers.
American Flyers has Kevin Costner reconnecting with his family, and his brother in particular. Costner has just found that he has found out he has the same thing that killed their dad and while it may or may not kill him, he wants to put a few things right before it’s too late. To that end he enters himself and his brother in a cross country bike race in the hope of putting everything right.
As you can guess from the introduction Costner does end up taking a turn for the worse, but there is something about this film which kind of transcends the dying character genre to actually make it more about life than death. While death is kind of hanging around the edges, the film really doesn’t dwell on it. Instead it focusses on brothers being brother and the racing. It’s a film that is very much about what we do while waiting for death to come, which is living.
Now, despite going on about Costner dying, the film isn’t maudlin or down beat. It is rather up beat and hopeful. In all honesty it wasn’t until I saw the film for the 5th or 6th time on cable all those years ago that I realized he was dying. Stupid me just thought he was really really sick.
The thing about American Flyers is despite the sad turn of events you feel good when it’s done. It’s a film that makes you cheer and smile and feel really good. It makes me feel so good that back when this was a cable staple I’d pretty much stop and watch it whenever I ran across it.
I may hate the dying character genre but I love this film.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
|Winsor McKay at work|
We at Unseen are about to down shift a bit, getting away from film festivals and coasting for the next week before we begin one coverage of one of the big events of the year, The New York Asian Film Festival. Yea it starts on the 28th but we start pumping out reviews of stuff we've seen a week from tomorrow and coverage will last for three weeks as it bleeds into Japan Cuts.
But enough of that idle chatter, it's time to clear the cinematic palette with some links. Some are movie related, come are not. All are worth a look. Many were found by Randi, the Unseen researcher and fact checker.
Feliade subtitled This was one of the first films reviewed here at Unseen. Its a super film about a cat investigating a murder. Here's my review.
Is the underground home at the NY Worlds Fair still there?
Bob and Ray A whole bunch of the classic duo being very funny
On the WS show that is coming to the Park Avenue Armory. Possibly not safe for work
Basilisk a super short film.
Disney Tile cards
On Omnibus films.
Broadway Theater Marquees to 2001
Fitzcaraldo out of cardboard
Batman as 70's grindhouse flick
Rod Serlings Final Interview
Trailer for the Congress
Tim Minchin on the radio
Trailer for the new Peter Greenaway film
Surfacing in Times Square
Eyes on the Stars
And please keep reading - this week is a bunchof random titles coupled with some new releases
In search for the American Dream they lose it all in the desert. - US Border agent
Troubling look at the situation along the US border with Mexico and the cost in human life for those who decide to go from Mexico to America in order to get some money and perhaps a better life.
We follow several story lines:
- The Border agents who make the arrests and track the flow of undocumented people.
- A man from Humane Borders who tries to help those in trouble in the desert and who puts water out since the distances everyone is crossing are longer than they think
- A young man trying to find his father who crossed into the US to get money to pay for his family's medical treatment only to be left in the Texas desert and was not seen again.
- The medical examiners who perform the autopsies on those found in the desert (warning: it is graphic)
I'm not sure what to say about the film.
The film is somewhere beyond criticism, I mean the film is simply a you are there look at people from both sides of the border doing what they have to do. The various people tell their stories and we are left to ponder it all. There is no preaching or anything like that just the situation as it affects various people...which can't help but leave you, like it left me, deeply bothered since it's clear there are no easy answers.Actually the only thing there is a real sense that its all wrong.
If a great film is one that makes you react to what it's showing youeven if it's to make you realize you don't know what to do, then this is a great film. See it. You will be troubled by it.
This plays at the festival on the 21st and 22nd. Details at the Human Rights Film Festival website.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
This is a good film that looks at the course of one case and the cost of justice denied by showing how the long stay in prison changes the wrongly convicted and the family he leaves behind, who in this case really thought he was guilty.
You'll forgive me for not saying a great deal about the film but while it's a solid film its nothing super special. Aside from daring to deal with the damage done to families, the film is about on par with a really good documentary that you'd see on one of the cable stations that specialize in true crime stories. This isn't to sell the film short, it is quite good, rather it's like watching one of those episodes but without commercials. Actually the real question I have is why is the film 90 plus minutes since the story is a bit too straight forward to support the length.
I like the film. I can't say more than that.
The film plays tomorrow and Tuesday. Details at The Human Rights Watch Film Festival website.
Friday, June 14, 2013
|Author Ric Meyers at Lincoln Center waits for Jackie Chan|
Monday and Tuesday was Jackie Chan overload as Jackie returned to New York for a series of public appearances. I'm told this was first in perhaps a decade, maybe more.
Monday he was at Lincoln Center where he was given the Star Asia Life Time Achievement Award by the guys who run the New York Asian Film Festival. After getting the Award he sat down with Grady Hendrix (in a kick ass pink suit) to talk before screening a new version of his Chinese Zodiac.
|Grady Hendrix introduces Jackie|
Tuesday there was a press conference at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the morning and in the evening Jackie was at the Asia Society where he spoke briefly before a screening of his Drunken Master 2. (I was told that he then was rushed off to a big gala that was being held in his honor).
It was a whirlwind of fans, films and Jackie Chan.
|Grady interviews Jackie|
In trying to write up this piece I tried to figure out what to do. I could talk about the films, how Chinese Zodiac in it’s new form is better than the previously released Asian version thanks to with sped up action and some cut scenes which gave it more cohesion but a bit less sense; or I could talk about how the Drunken Master 2 is so much better big and in its unaltered form (see my piece on the changes here).
I think not.
I could relate exactly what happened at each event, about what was said, about the man who took the stage to ask Jackie to try and help stop violence in wake of the bombing in Boston, and I could relate again the stories he told, of the new projects mentioned -A Jackie Chan stage musical is coming and a music project with people in LA. But the videos of his appearances are out there if you look (The Asia Society talk is at their website and I've seen The Lincoln Center Q&A on You Tube)
I could do any number of things but I won’t.
Instead I’d like to talk about Jackie the man and what he means to so many people and how that revealed itself over the two days in New York.
I don’t really know that much about Jackie Chan the man. I haven't made a deep study of his biography. Mostly I just watch his films. That maybe sacrilege to some but it still doesn't make him any less cool
I do know that watching him interact with his fans and the people presenting him over the last few days, I felt I was getting a sense of the man behind the myths and the stories.
|Jackie takes in the assembled press corps|
I mean I watched as he would stand behind the curtain and be quiet until introduced and then bound on to stage very much a man in the on position. I know he’s a man who has told some stories so many times that they come out of his mouth with an easy that suggests he’s said them a few more times than the three I heard them. I’ve seen that he’s a man who wants to connect with his audience but is being pushed and pulled by his handlers past them (He made an effort to try and sign Dr Stan Glick’s book despite being told he had to go). He is also a man very much capable of taking care of himself in a hairy situation, as was revealed when a man stepped out of the audience and on to the stage of the Walter Reade Theater to talk to him. Jackie deflected the people who wanted to keep the man from Jackie in order to listen to what the man had to say. It was a scary moment, but watching it again on video it has become one of the most powerful memories I’ll have of Jackie. It was amazing since with a wave, a gesture and a straightening up of his posture it became clear that no matter what happened or what was happening Jackie Chan was very much in control-more so than it may seem when he’s being prodded by the handlers. It was a clear human, person to person statement that Jackie Chan is very much the man we see what we see on screen.
And it’s the man that we see on screen that we all are attracted to.
There is something about Jackie Chan that turns us all into bouncing six year olds. Watching a Jackie Chan movie, even after you’ve seen it a dozen times or more, there is still a sense of genuine of wonder. You watch his movies and you have no idea how the hell he’s done what he’s done. It's Jackie and that’s all. There is nothing but the man. The movie magic is Jackie Chan, it’s not computers or camera tricks it’s one man doing the craziest things you’ve ever seen (clearly his mother never told him to be careful)
I love the man and his movies…
…and so do lots of other people especially the guys from Subway Cinema who brought Jackie here. Watching the Subway Cinema guys, Samuel, Goran, Grady, Rufus, Ted and everyone else over the last few days was like watching a bunch of kids who were just dropped at Disneyland and told to go crazy. Never have I seen such wide smiles on so many adults in my life. There was this sense in watching them that they were still in disbelief that they really had gotten Jackie Chan to New York. They all wanted to seem to turn to each other and say “We got Jackie Chan to New York! How Cool is that!?!"
It was way cool, and they did great by film fans in New York.
I kind of know what they were going through since I was staggering around Manhattan for two days in an orbit around Jackie Chan myself. I was there as a fan, and occasionally as a reporter.
|Jackie in motion|
The fan part of me just wanted to scream Hey that's JACKIE FREAKING CHAN!!!. It was a glorious thing to see a man you’ve admired for almost 40 years walking in front of you. It was even more special when I could drag my brother, after two tries, to see his favorite film star ever.
Yea, my brother Joe is the mad Jackie Chan fan. Joe, who from when he was 9 or 10, was going out and tracking down Jackie Chan stuff. He had me getting copies of Chan films mail order from Video Search of Miami and elsewhere. He had friends getting films from Chinatown for him. From him I went from being a fan to being more than a fan.
Ultimately its just super cool to take your brother to see some one's always loved.
While I’ve been to more than a few press conferences, and I’ve gone to my share of press screenings watching the press corps go gaga around Jackie was a great deal of fun. While I pride myself on being able to connect to the six year old in me (sometimes to the point that people think I'm nuts), many of the press are often too cool for school and try to remain above it. However watching many of them try to get close to Jackie was amusing. Trust me on this this wasn’t that these people were trying to get the shot this was people trying to get as close to their idol as humanly possible because he's Jackie Freakin Chan. And I’m serious in this feeling since I spoke with several other members of the press and I heard several conversations and it was clear everyone was there because it was Jackie and no one else.
One of the best things was just being in the audience at Lincoln Center and the Asia Society with other fans. I bought my tickets and was there as fan. I was there like everyone else because we wanted to see Jackie. I wanted the right to lose my cool and bounce and not have to be worry about covering things up because it wasn't professional. If I never wrote a word or took a picture it didn’t matter I was there to see Jackie. Seeing Jackie was all that mattered
Sitting in rooms of like-minded people was great. Sure I was there with Mondo, Mr C, Chocko, Shigeko, Hubert and Earl, but I was also there with a couple of hundred others as well. Talking to everyone and listening to everyone’s Jackie stories was a great deal of fun. The game of When did you discover Jackie Chan went impromptu around every room, the Walter Reade, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office offices and the Asia Society. It was so prevalent that La Frances Hui. from the Asia Society made a reference to it in her opening remarks stating that asking her about Jackie is like asking her to remember her first playground experience. It couldn’t be done, he was always there.
Always somewhere, Always on the screen be it large or small but not always in New York. Jackie is only rarely in New York which is why is appearance on Monday and Tuesday was so special to so many..
And because he comes so rarely the two days and three appearances of Jackie Chan in New York will always have a special place in my heart. What started out as just going to see a favorite actor and some of his movies turned into something else. It became something more since we got to see that this man we admire is, in some ways, all that we thought and hoped- a really cool guy.
I want to thank the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office helping to arrange the trip, The Film Society and the Asia Society for hosting the screening and mostly I want to thank the mad brains behind Subway Cinema- Goran, Samuel, Grady, Rufus, Ted and everyone else for being crazy enough to have started and continued the New York Asian Film Festival so they could share grand moments like these with the rest of the the world.
|Jackie speaks while some of the Subway Cinema crew look on|
Managing to balance the light funny moments with some darkness, The Parade is one of the rare "message" films that is actually a damn good movie as a movie. Despite a tendency for many filmmakers to wreck a film with the wrong mixture of laughter and tears, director Srdjan Dragojevic manages to get it absolutely perfect. It's clear from the start where this is going to go and you're willing to go with it because you like everyone and it all feels right. Indeed dad it gone any other way the film would have been one giant false note. Here there nothing is false, it's just good people dealing with real life issues.
I happily laughed and cried during the course of the film, with none of the emotion feeling cheap or contrived. Director Dragojevic earned my reaction by making one of the more surprisingly on target films of the year. This is a super super film and is worth seeing, not because it's a gay film or an issue film or a Human Rights film; you should see it because it's a damn good one. How do I know? Because when the film was done I wanted to start it all over again and spend more time with all of the people in it.
A very bittersweet joy. Highly recommended.
The film plays Monday and Wednesday. Details at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival website.