Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fantasia 2015 Capsule reviews: BITE (2015) and THE DEMOLISHER (2015)

The husband of a police woman wounded in the line of duty decides to dish out justice  on evil doers- particularly the ones that hurt his wife. However as time goes on the lines blur. And we watch as a young woman is mistaken by the husband as being  part of the gang who injured his wife.

Not so much an action film or thriller, the filmmakers instead focus on the internal struggle of the characters, and the "demolisher" in particular. This is a film that wants to be about the cost of revenge and what some people mistakenly do to try and heal.

It kind of works and it kind of drifts into pretentious territory. The desire to do something different keeps the film from completely ever being the psychological thriller its striving to be. At the same time the lack of dialog and insistence about being more than an exploitation film keeps it from being a satisfying drama. I completely under stand what the filmmakers were going for, but I don't think they achieved it.

Girl on a bachelorette party trip gets bitten by something and begins to mutate.

Okay horror film is cursed with a couple of things working against it.

First it's similar to any number of other horror films (say BLOOD GLACIER) with the result that there is very little here that we haven't seen before.

Second the way the film is told isn't all that compelling. The film starts off as some kind of found footage tale and the changes to a traditional story as we see life after the girls get home and the changes come.The craft of the filmmaking is adequate but never compelling. It looks like a so may independent dramas that there is nothing to excite. Worse the pacing is off. It doesn't move the way it should with the result that it seems to take forever to get to the good stuff  in the second half .Bythat point things seem a bit jumbled.

I'm going to say something I probably shouldn't but I know my reaction to the film was influenced by all of the films I saw previously at Fantasia. There are so many other good films playing at the festival, that by the time I saw this, somewhere around the 25 film mark, this film this film was going to have to knock it out of the park. It had to do something to stand out, and it didn't quite to that. (And before the producers and director hunt me down I promise to try this film again when it gets a regular release)

BITE isn't a bad film. Its just nothing we haven't seen before.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big Match (2014) Fantasia 2015

I want this movie in my collection....

Mixed Martial arts fighter Choi Ik-ho is arrested after his championship match is canceled and his brother goes missing. The cops think his brother killed someone and they think he knows where he is. While in lock up he's contacted by Ace a master criminal who produces a show where people are forced to travel across a city and fight. If Choi Ik-ho wants to see his brother again he'll take the help out of the jail cell and begin his trek across the city- fighting the cops and other people as he goes.

The plot line is nothing new but the sheer glee and humor is. The fact the film isn't deadly serious despite the bone crushing action is wonderful. Where films like RUNNING MAN or COWEB or any others never got the tone right or sacrificed plot for action BIG MATCH gets it all right. Well mostly right since the film has a few plot bumps of its own to deal with.

Outside of the jokes, which bubble up from the interaction of well drawn characters, the real reason to see this film is the action. The action is incredible. Its nice set up so that it flows naturally out of the situation at hand- a room full of cops leads into a battle with riot control cops in the parking area leads into a street chase which leads into...the next bigger fight or dangerous situation.

What I loved was that I lost myself in this utter nonsense as I waited for the next turn to pop up. This is the sort of movie that popcorn was invented for.(Okay well not really but you know what I mean)

This film is blast and a half and not a deep thought anywhere in it.

Definitely worth your time when it plays this afternoon at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

In Brief: BOY 7 (2015) Fantasia 2015

Amnesiac teen wanders out of  a subway and gets accosted by police. He manages to get away and in a restaurant finds a diary written my himself which explains his plight.

Dystopian science fiction tale is in no way new. The story of a hacker who is thrown in jail and reduced being a number all the while while struggling to get out of his situation and still fight his oppressors has been done to death. Or perhaps not to death, much more creatively.

While not a bad film, this is nothing you haven't seen before and better. On the other hand if you haven't seen a film like this do see this because this film was made for you. For me I lost interest some where about the time our hero got the diary and I realized how this was going to go.

While you won't hate the film you're not going to find yourself raving about it. Though I suspect  that had I seen this when I was 10 or 12 I would have loved it to death. If you're that age give it a shot.

The film's single Fantasia screening is tonight at 5. For more information and tickets go here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Visit (2015) Fantasia 2015

This may look like a toy on a set but its man in a containment suit  going to meet an alien
Documentary/essay exploring what would happen if an alien landed on earth. Using interviews with scientists the film ponders what we might do if confronted with an alien presence and how we would react.

Talking with scientists, some of whom are tasked by various governments and the United Nation to be the people who interact with any official alien contact . They discuss what should happen when we meet an alien, what actually may happen and a myrid of other topics, director Michael Madsen has created a thoughtful and thought provoking look something that one day may happen. It’s a highly intelligent examination of a subject that for many people is the fodder of Discovery Channel UFO show or Art Bell. If you never seriously considered what might happen if we made contact with an alien civilization this film will get your mind going.

I really liked the film a great deal. I think it’s a super introduction to the subject. This is a film I can and will be showing my friends who are skeptical that such an event will ever happen. They may very well be right but at the same time what if we did make contact?

What makes the film even better is that by examining what we would ask the aliens about themselves and trying to figure out how we would explain ourselves the film opens up the discussion to a large more, excuse the metaphor, down to earth one,; one that forces us to examine ourselves in the here and now. Its a discussion that I look forward to revisiting many times from here on out.

If there is any real problem with the film it’s that the core audience for the film, or at least the one's who are going to move to see it the quickest, are going to be the people who have made the UFO show a hit on cable- except that the film is in many ways too refined and too “real” for their tastes. As some one who loves fringe science I eat up all of the alien invasion shows. I love them and have all my life. However as with most of TV they have been dumbed down and aim for the craziest stories. They annoy me because there is so much bullshit in them I can’t watch them any more. The people who like those stupid ass shows are not going to like this straight on, cinematic essay. Its not isn’t full of anal probes.

For anyone who wants a thought for examination for a subject that many people would say is a way out topic

The film plays this afternoon and tomorrow at Fantasia. For more information and tickets go here.

I Am Chris Farley (2015)

I AM CHRIS FARLEY is hagiographic almost sickly sweet portrait of the late comedian as told by his friends and family.

Covering the life and times of Farley from birth to death which watch as Farley grows from a middle child needing attention to sports star wanting to be part of something on to his time at Second City, Saturday Night Live and beyond. It’s a night quite warts and all look at the man who made millions laugh.

I’m probably the wrong person for this film. I’m not a fan of Chris Farley. I never found the wonder in his performances. I found him to be little more than a big sad heavy guy trying to get attention. I went into the film in the hope of finding something that would make me appreciate him more. Sadly that wasn’t the case. Whatever magic Farley had that won him legions of fans gets lost in endless clips of Farley being the big loud guy.

And that’s the problem with the film, the footage of Farley is largely one note. It’s the same characters and the same shtick over and over again. We hear his friends talk about how there was more to Farley than going for the laugh, how his mentor Del Close would never have taken him under his wing if there wasn’t more to him then laughs- but the footage of Farley performing never really reveals that, its him mugging. I would have liked it more if we just had his friends talking about him rather than seeing similar footage over and over again.

My big take away from the film was a profound sense of sadness for Chris Farley. My heart broke for him. Here was this big guy who just wanted to belong, somewhere, anywhere and who seemed never to find that happy place. His brothers tell of him trying to gain his mother’s attention by constantly saying “look at me look at me”,. His high school friends talk of him looking for a place to belong so he joined the football team. Likewise his college friends talk of him joining the rugby team to just belong. Along the way we get stories of his drop the drawers antics that assured he’d be noticed. His was a story I could relate to but it’s clear from the friends stories and from the few interview clips that he was ultimately a broken soul. (the Letterman interview where he’s asked about being unloved is played for laughs but with everything around it ends up being emotionally crushing- it’s the truth played for laughs)

I AM CHRIS FARLEY is more a memorial service for a friend then it is a portrait of a comic “legend”. It’s a good film in that it lays out the life and times of its subject but it never crosses over into being great since it never manages to reveal why all of these wonderful people thought so highly of their friend.

Worth a look for fans when the film hits theaters on Friday

Monday, July 27, 2015

The End of the Tour (2015)

THE END OF THE TOUR is one of my favorite films of 2015. Its really close to the top of the list.

I have no idea if it's one of the "best" films, that classification is not important, what is important is that its a favorite- a fovorite on the order of a good friend, or in cinematic terms one of those movies you stop to watch every time it's on. This is one of those films that creeps into your soul and lives there, throwing up witty lines at oppurtune moments.

Based on ALTHOUGH OF COURSE YOU END UP BECOMING YOURSELF by David Lipsky THE END OF THE TOUR concerns the five days lLipsky spent with author David Foster Wallace as Wallace finished up his book tour for AN INFINITE JEST. Its basically two guys talking for two hours and the people they meet.

The film is witty and real and absolutely wondrous.

Forget the fictions of something like MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, this is the real deal. This is two highly intelligent people talking about life- not the life of high faluting ideas rather it's dogs and TV and Pop Tarts, relationships, and sex and insecurities. Its the insecurities  that bring the tension  as both men, both writers struggle to hide their own. Wallace, the genius fears he will be found out and declared a fraud while Lipsky fears he's not up to interviewing such a great man. Its very human and most amazingly exactly the sort of thing that we all experience daily, though  these guys have slightly more wit.

The two central performances are amazing. For once Jesse Eisenberg (Lipsky) is not a weird collection od ticks and mannerisms. Outside of his constant smoking he seems like a regular guy. Jason Segel should get an Oscar nomination of not the statue itself for his performance as Wallace. Its so perfect a performance that Wallace seems to inhabit him. Ive never seen film footage of Wallace but I have read interviewsand I suspect that if I did see film I'd want to know who the imposter was. Its a career defining performance that demands to be seen.

I don't know what else to say other than you need to see this film. It will make you feel good.

Ryuzo And His Seven Henchmen (2015) Fantasia 2015

Takashi Kitano has made another Yakuza film after his OUTRAGE films, only this time is more or less gentle comedy about bored gangsters wanting to get back into the game.

Ryuzo is an old tattooed yakuza member living at home with his son. His son is embarrassed by his dad and when he's practicing sword moves in the front yard he wants his dad to wear a shirt so the neighbors don't see. Hanging out with his old buddies he off handedly suggests they start a new family and before anyone knows it they are getting the "band" back together including guys who should stay in the hospital. They soon find themselves up against the modern day criminal-and it turns out not to be a fair fight.

Call this Takashi-Lite.

A small gem of a movie that is uniquely Japanese and uniquely Takashi Kitano film. Hitting every one of the oldster wants his old life tropes, Kitano spins them out in ways that you probably never thought of to make a film that is both familiar and something new with the reveal of some some of the old gang being in questionable taste but very funny (the razor expert no longer being able to shave for example)

While the film is not as out there as some of his comedies or as violent as some of the yakuza films the film is revealing in a gentleness and genuine love for the characters and their plight, something that isn't typical for many of the director's other films. While Kitano may have lost some of the intensity, there is a warmth that usually is missing in his films. This film is strangely like a big bear hug.

I call it a Lite film not because it's bad, rather because the lack of intensity or complexity make this a film that is going to be looked down on  by some people who want complex films every time instead of good films. This is a very good film

This film is a lot of fun. Highly recommended when the film plays tonight at 720 at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here

I'm not reviewing SEA FOG (aka Haemoo) (2014) just yet but go see it at Fantasia

I'm doing a short piece on HAEMOO for two reasons. First the film has been kicking around the festival circuit  for the last six months or so and I don't feel like it's live or die since I know a good number of the regular readers have seen it.  The other reason is that with the crush of films at Fantasia I can't spare the time to write the film up the way it should be written up. Simply put HAEMOO kicks serious ass and I need the time to do its themes and such justice.

The plot of the film has  a captain trying to convince the owner not to sell the ship. There are ways to make money...and so the decision is made to ferry a bunch of Chinese immigrants to shore. What should be an easy job turns by degrees more and more difficult as the crew and cargo clash, the coast guard shows up and the the plots and plans of the various people are revealed.

Its a white knuckle trip into hell that will knot up your stomach and make you talk to the screen.

I really like the film a great deal. I like it so much that I'm holding off reviewing it until I can really sit down and write it up- and watch it again since I was so into the film that I didn't take any notes. I'm mentioning the film because the film is so good you really need to see it, and since you only have one shot at seeing it, tonight at 950, I can't dicker around.

GO see this film. Trust me this is a big screen movie.

For tickets and more information go here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Nightcap 7/26/15 SOUND + VISON, ANIMATION BLOCKPARTY and Randi's links

I know we've been doing mostly festivals the last month or so but there's more coming.
Wednesday Lincoln Center’s newest annual series SOUND + VISION opens. This is a fantastic collection of music documentaries from around the world. On the basis of last year’s selections this year’s series should kick serious butt.

The selection runs the gamut from a film on Haydn (IN SEARCH OF HAYDN), to a film on ska (LEGENDS OF SKA) to a look at Musicians who have to make music despite a ban bu Islamic fundamentalists (YOU WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST) to a free but silent screening of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW where the audience will wear headphones. Its a completely ecclectic and wonderful slate of films that is a must see.

The thing of real interest for me is the films of Julian Temple. He directed some great documentaries and the chance to see films like CLASH NEW YEARS DAY 77,  JOE STRUMMER THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN or THE FILTH AND THE FURY on a big screen with big sound is too good to pass up. I’m hoping to get to see a few of them.

Coverage here at Unseen is going to be hit or miss. Because of scheduling conflicts anything I get to is going to be the a last minute decision.

For tickets, the complete slate and more details go to the series page here
Animation Block Party starts Thursday here in New York. This is a glorious celebration of animation from around the world. It’s a killer showcase for films you may never see otherwise.

The fest begins with a free screening at Brookfield place down by the World Trade Center site before moving over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music for three days of insanity. There are some really cool things coming to the BAM. First is the anniversary screening of GHOST IN THE SHELL. More so than the manga that spawned it the film changed science fiction and how we view man/machine inter face. Its also a damn good film. The festival is also screening a collection Sesame street bits. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 45 years you know how good that stuff is.

For information on all the Animation Blog Party events in the city go here.

The BAM portion of Animation Block Party's information and tickets can be had here
New releases mix with more Fantasia films this week. There is so much coming from Fantasia that reviews are coming straight through to August 7.

On the whole Fantasia's selections have been really good. There have been a few stinkers but largely this is once again a banner year.

I am trying to get the stuff reviewed before the films screen, but some times that isn't possible so if there is something you're curious about what I saw don't worry there is a good chance it maybe coming. On the other hand some things like ATTACK ON TITAN I haven't gotten access to.  Either way keep reading because more films than any sane mind can take in are coming .
And now and over flowing bounty of  Randi's links

Images from a new Al Hirschfeld book
Memories of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Remember that weird TCM Dick Tracy Special?
Space Volcanos
All the Criterion DVD titles plus links to the lasers, special editions and announced but never was
The almost Tim Burton Superman
Cartel Land stories
The MUPPET SHOW  Comic Con panel
DOOMED on the Roger Corman Fantastic Four movie
MR TURNER sex scenes cause complaints
Old time radio
Robot Soccer
Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins, and Grace Jones to star in Teutonic supernatural silent Western
Steven Universe
Embroidered Zoetropes (this is wickedly cool)
Which Angry New Yorker are you?
Chicago artist turns the city into a Monopoly gameboard
Being short at a concert
Giant animals you've never seen
A largely lazy list of the 100 best American films

Black and White: Dawn of Justice (2014) Fantasia 2015

This is the sequel to the crazy BLACK & WHITE EPISODE 1: THE DAWN OF ASSAULT. That film so action packed I saw it with a good number of other people standing in a small DVD  in New York's Chinatown. Everyone would come in see the movie playing on the TV and just stop to watch. By the time the film ended the store was full- and the entire stock of the film was sold out. Its a crazy film that ended on a jet and --well if you haven't seen it you'll have to go track it down.

This time out Wu Ying-Hsiung has to save Harbour City from a group of baddies who want to isolate the city and commit a biological attack. With time ticking down he's forced to work with Chen Zen a newbie cop who just happens to be there as all hell breaks loose.

Beginning with a kick ass highway chase the film segues instantly into the main plot as bridges are blown up and people are left stranded. People are being forced to get bombs to a certain place with the promise of safety for themselves or their loved ones and the police are trying to figure out what's going on.

A series of alternating exposition scenes that give the right details  to increase the tension alternate with a series of escalating action set pieces as our heroes battle the bad guys. Its finely tuned to make you feel as if you're in a vice and make you drop your popcorn as you wonder how the hell they are going to get out of that. (I don't know but I'm sure it's going to be crazy)

I not going to compare the two films. Its not worth it, each film has their own feel to them. Both have their joys and their flaws. Both are kind of equal in my mind (though the first film had the break of my having zero expectations regarding it, the second one I was like - wait there's more?)

The short review is that this, like the first film are musts for any action fan. Its a balls to the wall crazy ass action film that is entertaining as all hell.

The Fantasia screening happened last weekend, however that shouldn't stop you from putting this on your list of must sees.

(And no I have not run a review of the first film. I haven't seen it since I saw it in the DVD shop and I didn't want to review it until I could see it again and take proper notes)

The Arti: The Adventure Begins (2015) Fantasia 2015

The creators of LEGEND OF THE SACRED STONE return with another eye popping action tale done entirely with puppets. This time out a brother and sister, entrusted with a metal and wood robot that their father built go off to find "the Origin" and it's source.

This was one of my top five must see lists at Fantasia. Another film from the SACRED STONE people and I was there. The film looked even more amazing than the earlier film and I just had to see it.

If you noticed the plot description above is really sparse, there is a good reason for that, the plot is really sparse. Frankly there isn't much to it and on a certain level it's bit dumbed down from the earlier film. Its as if director Huang Wen Chang and writer Huang Liang Hsun tried to make a film that was going to pack them in with echoes of the Final Fantasy games and a cute bird. The plot isn't bad but it's never compelling on it's own terms.

On the other hand the visuals are incredible. Put this on the list of best action films of the year. Its amazing. I don't know what voodoo they used but this film is pure poetry. The actions are completely natural and seem even more real than the great martial arts films from the heyday of the Shaw Brothers and Golden Harvest. My jaw just hung open the whole time going as I wondered how the hell they did it.

I am in awe.

This is one of the most alive and living films I've seen all year.

This film is a must see. For action film fans, for puppet lovers, for people who want to be wowed for any one who wants to see something really cool THE ARTI is a must. It may not have the best plot but its one of the few times you'll hear me say visuals and action trump plot,

What would Jim Henson have made of this? What would he have stolen?  My mind boggles at what the Muppet movies would have been like had the great minds behind this film and the Henson Studios got together.

See this film- however you can just see this film and be blown away.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

You must see BUNNY THE KILLER THING (2014) at Fantasia 2015

If you're any where near Montreal tonight you need to get to Fantasia and see BUNNY THE KILLER THING. Trust me if you love batshit crazy off the deep end films you have to see this. In all seriousness this maybe one of the greatest midnight films ever made. Its certainly a can't miss party film.

The plot of the film has a man injected with a serum that tuns him into a a giant bunny like creature with a huge 3 foot hard-on . He then roams the country side looking for women. He of course encounters people in a cabin....

This film is review proof.

Either you're going to want to see a black comedy about man in a bunny suit and three foot penis running around the Finnish woods looking to score and kill people or you're not. If you have no desire to see it you've moved on, if on the other hand you have a desire to see this you're either buying a ticket or trolling the internet to find a copy.

I applaud the second group.

Is it a perfect film?

Of hell no, there are dead spots and groaners but there is more than enough good moments to push this into classic midnight cult film territory.

Make no mistake this is low brow exploitation- it mixes horror comedy and grossness in ways that are unnatural. But its really well done.

The film gets one screening tonight at 1155 at Fantasia. If you can go do so. If not, mark this film on to you're must find list because I know this is coming to a screen near you real soon.

Forr tickets and information go here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

On the White Planet (2014) Fantasia 2015

Visually arresting film concerns a teen-aged boy of color. Not black or white color, but genuine color since he lives on a world where everything is black and white. People bleed white, he bleeds red, his skin is pink. Living on the fringes of society he forages for food and kills those who get in his way. His one wish is to turn white like everyone else. Hooking up with a group of criminals he thinks he may have found a family, however they have designs of their own.

Dark sad story that is like a gut punch. This is the story of the outside and of the thing or person that is different and how society seeks to destroy it.It is not a happy tale and when it was done I wanted to go outside and see life. This is a film that will depress you.

The film's visual style is interesting. Using a largely monochromatic animation art style the film will occasionally shift so it looks like charcoal or paint or comic books or even fleeting live action. Its something that works wonders with the telling of the story.

A must see for anyone who wants their animation to be more than just talking animals or giant robots.

The film plays today at 4 at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

The Ninja War of TORAKAGE (2014) Fantasia 2015

Yoshihiro Nishimura, the mad genius behind TOKYO GORE POLICE and HELLDRIVER returns to movie screens with a ninja film unlike any other ninja film. It also marks his huge step forward as a filmmaker.

The story is framed by Francisco, a Portuguese scholar  who tells us of a great war. The story concerns the hunt for the a gold scroll, which when briught together with another scroll will reveal the location of a treasure. When the head of a ninja clan fails to get the scroll, she forces Torakage, a ninja who left her clan, to take on the job.

If you've seen earlier Nishimura films you can kind of know what to expect, crazy action, gallons of blood, and weird creatures (one has wings made of hands and eyes all over her body). You also get tongue in cheek performances and meta scripts.

What you are not going to be expecting is a huge jump in story telling my Nishimura. I always have loved his craziness and the sense that anything can happen. What I never really liked was that there are times, more than I care to admit where the plot becomes optional. Here there seems to be a plot all the way through- sure there are period cybernetic battle suits and craziness on a huge scale- but there is an actual through line that's rather refreshing.

One of the things that I loved is that Nishimura actually stages many scenes as if these were real events. Previously his films felt like they were movies, here there is sense that if you stripped away the craziness you'd be in a world closer to ours than any of the directors other films. He fillms it with crowds, real locations and small details that give weight to it all. For example a giant mud puddle where the climax occurs is partly red with blood, not during the fight. In previous films that may not have been there,

In the end this is a solid little movie. Its a great film by a director who I've always loved and who seems to be maturing as he goes. Highly recommended for fans of Nishimura and ninja films who don't mind silliness.

The film plays late tonight at Fantasia. For tickets and more information go here.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fantasia2015 Capsules: OBSERVANCE, RAIDERS! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Man grieving the death of his son is hired to watch a woman- then things get weird.

I have no idea- I really don't. Might be because I saw this late and looked away or because it just didn't work for me but I just don't get it.

RAIDERS! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made
Story of the guys who began a shot for shot remake of  RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when they were 11. Its the saga of how they did what they did over the following 7 plus years.

Intriguing story is made dull by the over length the realization that you've heard much of this before.  I got to a certain point and simply stopped caring. This is an over long DVD extra about a home movie. No offense to these guys and gals but  I like the idea of the remake a hell of a lot more than I like the remake. I likewise feel that I like the story of how they(in generalities) did it more than knowing the details.

To be brutally honest my over riding thought while watching this was why the fuck is this 92 minutes.

This is time I'll never get back.

You must go see CASH ONLY (2015) at Fantasia 2015

I did not want to see Cash Only

I mean I really didn't want to see Cash Only.

But I had some time and I figured Fantasia programmed it so how bad could it be?

It's not bad, it's freaking awesome.

All hail director Malik Bader and screenwriter/star Nickola Shreli. They have made one hell of a punch in the face crime drama. This is the sort of film that all the small scale inde crime dramas are shooting to be. This is one of those films that you don't compare it to anything, this is one of those films that in a year or two people will be trying to compare their films to it.

The plot of the film has a guy named Martini trying to make ends meet. He's up to his eye balls with gambling debts, his daughter's school is clamoring for money and the bank wants to foreclose on his rental property, With every one wanting money he finds a stash of money in an apartment he was clearing out. He figures that itsitshis ticket to solvency but instead its a rife to hell as the owner comes looking for it.

Shot with a gritty you are their feel with a star making central performance this is a film that feels lived it. It comes at you like a crazy man with a knife.. Its a film that leaves you feeling broken and bruised.

What a fantastic film.

I don't want to say more. the film world premieres tonight and if you're going you're in for something special. If you're not going  you have to put this film on your must see list. Trust me I see tons of similar films, most I never review, most I top half way in, CASH ONLY grabbed me and held me even all the way through the end credits.

You must see it- for more information and tickets go here.

Gay Girl in Damascas: The Amina Profile opens tomorrow

The only film I covered at Sundance this year was this film-then called the AMINA  PROFILE.  It was this really good little film that a couple of people told me I should see because it was something special. 

Having seen it I can say it is.

I'm not going to say too much. this is the story that works best  if you know as little as possible. I will say that the film is something to either see it in theaters or on the SUNDANCENOW DOC CLUB website.

With that in mind here is my Sundance review:

Sandra, a French woman living in Montreal meets Amina, an Syrian American woman living in Damascus on line. As their relationship grows Amina becomes more empowered to the point that she begins a blog called Gay Girl in Damascus in which she would discuss being an out woman in the Middle East. Things eventually take a turn for the worst and it appears that Amina is kidnapped by forces in Syria. Sandra springs into action in order to free her girlfriend but what she finds isn't what she's expecting.

Following Sandra's quest to piece together what exactly happened and why THE AMINA PROFILE is a cracking good film. For those who don't know the story of what happened it's a mystery that sucks you in and drags you along (I'm not going to reveal what happened or happens). For those who know the story this serves as cautionary tale about not only love in today's Internet age but also a warning about how we view the politics of anything.

You'll forgive my lack of details as to what the film is and what happens but this is the sort of film that is going to play best the less you know what it is. Once I realized what the story at the heart of the film was, I had followed the actual events back in 2011, my perception of the film changed. There was an "ah ha" moment that made it all different, not worse just different.

Running a compact 85 minutes this film could possibly use a tiny bit of trimming of some of the reconstructions, but otherwise this is a super little film. Expect it to show up at any number of film festivals over the coming months so you'll have a good chance at catching it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

IN BRIEF: MASTER PLAN (2015) Fantasia 2015

You have one shot to catch the caper/thriller/revenge tale MASTER PLAN at Fantasia and that is tonight at 945 and if you like well done capers make your way to the J.A. De Seve Theatre.

The plot of the film has car thief Charles Ingvar Jönsson going on one last robbery with his partner and uncle. When he sees another car with a lap top on the seat he decides to steal both of them. It all goes horribly wrong and Charles uncle is killed. Vowing revenge he puts a team together....and you get the idea.

Solid caper isn't anything we haven't seen before (I mean the girl Charles is hot for not only is a thief but sports hair like Angelina Jolie in GONE IN 60 SECONDS) but it is entertaining. While I've complained about a couple of films at Fantasia not doing anything new with the tropes of whatever genre they are operating in, sometimes you can make something new out of something old-you just have to dress it up correctly.  MASTER PLAN dresses it up so that if it was the girl next door you'd suddenly become smitten because suddenly she looked hot in a new dress.

There isn't a great deal to say beyond that other than perhaps to say that you'll need a big bowl of popcorn.

For tickets and more information go here.

Frank the Bastard (2013)

Having bounced around for festivals for the last two years (wher it had been called East of Arcadia) FRANK THE BASTARD concerns a young woman who takes a road trip back to her old home town. She hasn't been there since her father took her away after her mother died when she was a child. Once there she finds a combination of welcoming “friends” who remember her dad and family and people who would rather she not ask about the past.

Good but not as good as it should be film has a great cast (any film either Chris Sarandon and William Sadler can’t be all bad and any film with both is much better just because they are in it) playing some really good characters. There is a compelling story at the center of the film.

The problem with the film is that the film doesn’t seem to know what kind of film it is. Is it a drama? A thriller? A horror movie? a combination? While there is nothing wrong with a film that can jump genres, it has to balance the tone, FRANK never gets the tone right with the result that while it remains a compelling drama it never generates the tension it should. Watching the film I was engaged but never tense.

I do like the film, It kept me watching all the way to the end without my attention wandering which says a great deal. Consider that any number of recent independent films had me checking my watch or checking my email. Its good enough I wish it was a better control of it's tome.

FRANK THE BASTARD hits select theaters Friday and is worth a shot.

The great FIVE STAR (2014) opens Friday

FIVE STAR was one of the gems of last year's Tribeca. It was one of those small scale movies  that Unseen was set up to highlight. It was also one of the reasons I go to Tribeca. I go to Tribeca to see films that I'd never notice otherwise.

You need to see this film. Not only is it a really good film, but it's also a chance for you to see James "Primo" Grant. Grant is a force of nature and some one who is going to be a huge star- trust me.

With the film opening Friday in New York and on the 31st in LA here's my Tribeca review:

The Brooklyn lensed Five Star tells the dual intersecting stories of John and Primo. John is a young man trying to get over the death of his recently deceased absentee father. John wants to know something about the man his father was. He also just wants to try and survive on the streets where people end up dead with a frightening frequency. Primo was a friend of the John’s dad. He’s a five star, a leader in the Blood gang. He desperately wants out of the life so that he can provide a better life for his growing family. He’s also looking to continue to make money and to that end he offers to take John into the life and act as a kind of surrogate father for the young man.

A good small scale film with a great sense of place and New York, Five Star reminds me of some of the best films that are frequently released by some of the smaller direct to video companies like Maverick. This is not to knock Five Star only to place it into the realm of some of the best films that most people are sadly missing.

Actually the film achieves true greatness during the sequences focusing on Primo and his life. Played by James "Primo" Grant, the character is based in large part the actors life, with his kids playing his kids, his fiance playing his fiancé and the details largely lining up. These sequences seem less drama and more real. If you removed John from the film and simply focused on Primo you could very well release the film as a documentary and no one would ever know. This is as real a film as you are likely to find anywhere. Not to put too fine a point on it these sequences, where Primo talks about his life, or interacts with his family are among my most favorite of the year. Additionally Grant is a true stand out and if there is any justice he’s going to be a huge actor since within the confines of this small film he shows he can literally do it all from comedy to drama to bad ass.

The problem with the film are the sequences with John. Saddled with the dramatic narrative the film falters here as John goes through some very cliché sequences that are dramatically fine, but could have been lifted from any urban/crime coming of age stories going back to the 1930’s (which was pointed out to me by Peter who liked the film more than I did). There is also a period late in the game involving the delivery/nondelivery of a package that seems to have been shuttled in from another film. Admittedly it doesn’t help that John’s sequences are full of actors who are all over the place in their abilities. While this adds a certain verite to the proceedings, it does make the it clear some people are acting or trying to.

I will say that one of pluses all the way around is the ending which puts what the film is really about into perspective. Its one of those endings that makes you want to see the film again because you’ll want to see it knowing what the real point of it all is.