Friday, May 6, 2016

Goodnight Mommy (2015)


I’m at a loss to explain why Goodnight Mommy was the Austrian submission for the Oscars. Actually I’m not quite sure why it’s gotten as much play and love from the critical community as it has since it’s little more than a run of the mill exploitation film or one of M Night Shamalamadingdong’s trick films warmed up with art house pretentions.

The plot of the film has twin boys pondering if the woman in the bandages is really their mother since she is behaving strangely and keeps doing things that their real mom wouldn’t do. Of course the whole thing has a twist and it ends badly for everyone.

If you’re a fan of horror movies or thrillers there is a good chance you’ve seen a version of this film before. I could give you a list of five films off the top of my head which would tell you instantly where the film was going and if I thought about it for a bit longer I could tell you more but I’m not going to mention any titles since I don’t want to give it away. To be honest the film isn’t bad, it’s just not even remotely anything that any movie fan hasn’t seen before.

The difference here is that instead of being a low budget gritty telling this time it’s in an upscale house that looks kind of antiseptic. The filmmakers are going for a sense of a world of their own making feel and it kind of works to a point but after a while it just feels arty for arty’s sake. The film’s dialog is frequently obtuse. Instead of being daring and having everyone talk normally there are times when what we see is obtuse for no real reason except to try and hide what is going on. It’s so off that it doesn’t really pull the audience in as make you wonder what is really going on. I was listening to the dialog not so much for the drama but for clues as to what the real deal was.

In talking to a number of people about the film before I saw it everyone mentioned a point where the film flips. They never said what the flip was but everyone said there was a moment where you either accepted what transpires after that or you turn off. I was kind of left cold by the flip and what follows. To me it seemed to be an effort to bring some tension to a film that really didn’t have any.

I think it’s not so much a question as to why the film has gotten so much love, rather it’s a question of haven’t the critics who have been touting it seen the other similar films?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER and SUBWAY CINEMA ANNOUNCE INTIAL DETAILS FOR THE 15th NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL June 22 to July 9


15 FOR 15: THE COOL, THE CRAZY, THE CORRUPT


This summer’s New York Asian Film Festival (June 22 – July 9) has its most cutting-edge lineup yet, with a cast of Asia’s hottest stars, some receiving our significantly expanded Star Asia and Screen International Rising Star Awards. Today, we give our first glimpse at this year’s offerings, revealing the 15 key titles that shape the themes of our 15th anniversary edition. View a festival teaser video here.

From the Philippines we present three genre-defying films that explore fatherhood, and what it means to be an adult: Erik Matti’s religious crime drama Honor Thy Father, Ralston Jover’s noir youth drama Hamog (Haze), and Mario Cornejo's sensual surfing film Apocalypse Child, which posits that Francis Ford Coppola left behind an illegitimate son as well as a surfboard after shooting Apocalypse Now in the Philippines.

We cling to the company of lost souls to explore the little-known territory of Tamil-language Malaysian cinema and the plight of the local Indian community in the 1990s. First-time director Shanjhey Kumar Perumal’s Jagat (Brutal) follows the hardships of a 12-year-old boy as he gets drawn into the criminal lifestyle of his uncle, a henchman for a local Malaysian gang. Channeling the spirit of Satyajit Ray, this raw coming-of-age story receives its North American premiere at NYAFF.

From South Korea come films about people selling their souls, both figuratively and literally. In E J-yong’s The Bacchus Lady, an elderly prostitute plies her trade in city parks. The bittersweet tale reflects the national scandal of a generation facing abject poverty and abandonment. Kim Jin-hwang’s The Boys Who Cried Wolf follows an unemployed actor paid to be a false witness to a child’s murder, while Jang Jae-hyun’s modern exorcist thriller The Priests will have heads spinning with its hair-raising car chases, piglets as demonic vessels, and the antichrist.

In explorations of innocence corrupted, we put the spotlight on first-time female directors with China’s What’s in the Darkness (dir. Wang Yichun), about a curious teenage girl who is seduced into her cop father’s investigation of a serial killer; Hong Kong’s Lazy Hazy Crazy (dir. Jody Luk), in which schoolgirls explore the city’s heart of greed by charging for sex; and Thailand’s Grace (dir. Ornusa Donsawai & Pun Homchuen), a merciless attack on social-media idolatry.

We next descend into Japanese madness with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s unnerving Creepy, about a maniac who infiltrates and corrupts the nuclear-family unit; Sakaki Hideo’s shocking Kiyamachi Daruma, featuring a manipulative yakuza boss who lacks not only digits but also his arms and legs; and the loony Hentai Kamen 2, the hotly anticipated sequel to our 2013 Audience Award winner about a fetishistic superhero who wears his crime-busting underwear on his head.

We round out our 15 key films with two thrillers that explore institutionalized corruption—in the police, in the courts, in the media, and on the political stage—with Woo Min-ho’s Inside Men from South Korea and Cheng Wen-tang’s Maverick from Taiwan. Both films are razor-sharp dissections of the corruption at the heart of the two fragile democracies at a moment when both are swinging pendulums of political turmoil.

The festival’s executive director, Samuel Jamier, says, “To celebrate our 15th edition, we made the difficult and deliberate decision to have a lean selection of approximately 50 features. Bigger isn’t better; better is better. While maintaining a focus on quality, we’re putting our energies into promoting each film, so that they have a life after the festival. We have a larger lineup of exciting guests booked, including Asian stars who are joining us for our anniversary celebration.”

The festival will announce its opening film and the Screen International Rising Star Award recipients in mid-May from Cannes, followed by the full-lineup reveal at the end of May.

15 for 15
1. Apocalypse Child; dir. Mario Cordejo [Philippines], North American Premiere
2. The Bacchus Lady 죽여주는 여자; dir. E J-yong [South Korea], New York Premiere
3. The Boys Who Cried Wolf 양치기들; dir. Kim Jin-hwang [South Korea], North American Premiere
4. Creepy ク リーピー 偽りの隣人; dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa [Japan], New York Premiere
5. Grace อวสานโลกสวย; dirs. Ornusa Donsawai & Pun Homchuen [Thailand], International Premiere
6. Hamog (Haze); dir. Ralston Jover [Philippines], North American Premiere
7. Hentai Kamen 2 HK 変態仮面 アブノーマル・クライシス; dir. Yuichi Fukuda [Japan], North American Premiere
8. Honor Thy Father; dir. Erik Matti [Philippines], New York Premiere
9. Inside Men 내부자들; dir. Woo Min-ho [South Korea], New York Premiere
10. Jagat (Brutal); dir. Shanjhey Kumar Perumal [Malaysia], North American Premiere
11. Kiyamachi Daruma 木屋町DARUMA; dir. Hideo Sakaki [Japan], International Premiere
12. Lazy Hazy Crazy 同班同學; dir. Jody Luk [Hong Kong], North American Premiere
13. Maverick 菜鳥; dir. Cheng Wen-tang [Taiwan], North American Premiere
14. The Priests 검은 사제들; dir. Jang Jae-hyun [South Korea]
15. What’s in the Darkness 黑处有什么; dir. Wang Yichun [China] North American Premiere

The New York Asian Film Festival is co-presented by Subway Cinema and the Film Society of Lincoln Center and takes place from June 22 to July 5 at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater, and July 6 to 9 at SVA Theatre. Keep up to date with information at www.subwaycinema.com and www.filmlinc.org.

The Horde (2016)

Hitting VOD tomorrow is THE HORDE a wicked little B-horror/action film from director Jared Cohn and writer and star Paul Logan.  The film is a wicked throw back to the grindhouse days of exploitation trash or drive-in gems where you were highly entertained by films that you felt really guilty for loving.

The plot of the film has ex-military man Paul Logan taking a bunch of kids into the woods for a photography trip. Unbeknownst to them the  woods are crawling with an band of blood thirsty crazies who are killing people and getting victims for their leader and his mad scientist underlings.  Of course the crazies attack and Logan has to try and save everyone.

Go get a bowl of popcorn, some beverages of choice and hunker down and watch THE HORDE. Without a doubt you've seen any number of similar films over the years but I'm guessing that it's been ages since you've seen one as engaging, and entertaining as this one. This film knows what it is, knows its cliched and doesn't care one iota, it simply charges straight ahead giving us blood and guts and severed limbs with practical effects and some computer enhancement.

This film is in no way high art. I'm not sure its even low art. It is something all together different,a glorious cinematic bloodbath with some witty lines and lots of severed limbs. I had a grand old time watching the mayhem. As the film played out I really hated myself for enjoying it as much as I did. I mean the film at times is little more than torture porn, but somehow it never falls completely into that category, some how it stays outside it and becomes the sort of thing you pull out when friends come over and you want to see the cinematic equivalent of the gladiator games of old. While its not like a gladiator games it does get the pulse racing with its blood and gore.

I really liked the film a great deal.

Highly recommended to those who like this sort of thing or want a movie to be rowdy with friends with.


Please visit:
www.thehordemovie.com and follow @TheHordeMovie
THE HORDE On Demand May 6th, 2016 U.S and Canada

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pondering the deeply disturbing Bridgend (2015)

I saw BRIDGEND last year at the end of Tribeca and I wrote up a short capsule review which went:

Based on true story about a Welsh town where there is an epidemic of suicides among the kids. A deeply troubling and haunting film that will hang with you for days. This film deserves way more than this short little piece (which is all I can do in the wake of the end of Tribeca) so I'll be doubling back in a couple of weeks to take a look. For those who don't mind troubling films this is a must see.

I should point out that there is documentary out from a few years ago on the same subject which is also deeply troubling..


The idea was to go back afterward and write up the film in fuller longer review. I never did.

Basically after Tribeca kicked my ass I didn't have it in me to do any thing more beyond what I had done. I thought nothing of it and then went on to the next thing.

And then a couple of weeks ago I got an email from the PR people handling the film- Basically it was "Hey Steve, there's this great film coming out on Fandor called BRIDGEND, would you want to review it?

I wrote back "I saw the film last year at Tribeca and thought it as great. I will see about expanding the capsule review if I can find my notes."

"Great. Here's the press material and a link to the film so you can refresh your memory."

And then I pulled at my notes, and I looked at the press material, and I sat with my finger poised over the link for the film - and I turned off the computer and went outside and sat in the sunshine.

I couldn't go back to the head space of the film, more importantly I don't want to go back there.

(That's a rave boys and girls)

BRIDGEND tells the story of a Sara and her dad, a new policeman, who move to the village of Bridgend and find out all is not right there, it seems there is a curse of sorts, the villagers are killing themselves in droves and there is no explanation as to why. As the father seeks to find out what is causing all of the deaths the town is left to ponder the damage left in the wake.

The rash of suicides is real, While most have been of young adults the cluster has included people into their forties. In the first two years of the tragedy 24 people died, By 2012, five years on, the numbers had reached at least 79. Police desperate to stop copycats asked that the deaths not be covered in the media.

The film bothers me. The film gives life to something that I find hard to fathom is happening. I've read all sorts of explanations but none of them quite work for me. The film doesn't really have any concrete answers, which is why it's so troubling.

And of course the film hooks you by giving us two likable characters who are thrown into the middle of a mystery without an explanation-thus putting them in danger.

BRIDGEND is an excellent film. It is a film of quiet power. Yes the film will provoke a reaction from you when you see it,  But it's also a film that is going to stay with you for a long while to come, say a year later. For me the film has popped up several times over the last year in conversations and I quietly backed away from them because I don't want the film haunting me, As the quote on the poster from Variety, this is real world horror which is more terrifying than make believe because these monsters are out there.

This is definitely a film I recommend, even though it isn't one I ever need see again. Its a film that will make you feel something and ponder yourself and existence and why terrible things happen as well as the damage left behind. It is not a film for all audiences, but for those willing to go into the darkness it is worth your time, money and effort to see it.

Fandor is the exclusive SVOD platform for the film

The Offering (2016)

Hitting theaters and VOD this Friday is THE OFFERING a Singapore set horror film.

Jamie is a reporter who receives word that her sister has died. Traveling to Singapore to see what happened she is informed that her sister committed suicide. Unable to believe it she begins digging and finds that her death is some how linked to an ancient evil.  Will she be able to stop the evil and keep her niece safe?

Okay horror film isn't bad, but isn't anything special either. The film suffers from poor staging which seems to think that big open areas are scary. What I mean by this is that much of the film seems to be in large rooms  with lots of empty space. I understand why its being done-to make it appear like no one could be around, but at the same time a lot of it feels like an episode of an architectural show. Worse everything seems too brightly lit, there is no mood or feeling of dread.

To be honest about half way into the film my attention began to wander around. It says a great deal that even with my attention split I stayed to the end, I was interested enough to see where it was going but at the same time I didn't live or die by what happened.

For horror fans worth a look, but it need not be your first choice.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The awesome Mad Tiger hits theaters Friday and is a must see.

One of the highlights of last years DOC NYC was MAD TIGER about the changing of the guard in the band Peelander Z. I wrote a short piece about the film because I couldn't say a great deal about the film because its just so damn good that the film says it all. Its one of those films that short of dragging you to see there is nothing I can do to make you like the film any more than what the film does so magnificently.

The film opens Friday and is an absolute must see for anyone looking for a truly great film.

Here is my DOC NYC piece.

Strangely moving look at the band Peelander-Z, a Japanese punk band based in New York that puts on wild shows. As the film begins one of the band members, Red decides to leave the band for something more secure and with a future. This upsets the groups leader, Yellow, who must work to maintain the friendship and try to figure out where he is heading himself.

Fantastic portrait of a band and it's leader that works on so many different levels. What I love about the film is that what starts out with a look at a band changes into a look at what it takes to be in a band and how the relationships outside of the band are forced to change because of the dynamics of the band. Whats even better that as the film goes on it morphs again and becomes Kengo's quest to find himself...or maybe that's what it was about all along. Either way, or anyway it's amazing. Its so good I can't wait to see it again.


JAPAN CUTS announces dates, an award recipient and the first four titles

(I just got this press release- and foregoing that I'm not suppose to post from the day job- I'm posting from the day job because this is important stuff

North America's Largest Festival of New Japanese Cinema Announces First Official Selections and Award Recipient for 10th Anniversary

JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film

July 14-24, 2016

New York, NY – The 10th annual JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film announces the first of many highlights, including the Centerpiece Presentation film, select titles, and this year’s recipient of the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film.

Emphasizing the diversity and vitality of one of the most exciting world cinemas, JAPAN CUTS presents the best new movies made in and around Japan and the filmmakers and performers who made them, with new titles never before seen in New York and many screening for the first time outside Japan or in North America.

Slated for July 14-24, the 10th anniversary edition looks forward to the bold new talents who will influence future generations while looking back to the game-changing pioneers who helped shape the contemporary cinematic landscape. With the full 2016 line-up to be announced in June, major confirmed highlights include:

The Shell Collector - Centerpiece Presentation - North American Premiere

The second feature by director Yoshifumi Tsubota adapted from a short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Doerr, The Shell Collector stars revered Japanese actor, essayist and illustrator Lily Franky, who will join the screening to receive the CUT ABOVE Award for Outstanding Performance in Film. The Japan Times calls it, "Gorgeous… As the blind professor, Franky impresses with his almost preternatural sensitivity."

Three Stories of Love - New York Premiere

Named the best Japanese movie of 2015 in influential film magazine Kinema Junpo’s annual top 10 list, this immensely rich and expertly crafted original drama by award-winning auteur Ryosuke Hashiguchi (his first since 2008’s All Around Us) centers on the lives of three heartsick characters struggling to deal with the confrontation between their desires and a bleak reality. The film also won Kinema Junpo awards for Best Director, Best Screenwriter, and Best New Actor (Atsushi Shinohara).

Love & Peace - NYC Premiere

A passion project decades in the making, Love & Peace returns to the most persistent of director Sion Sono's wild assortment of themes: purity, passion, and cult power. A chilling, candy-colored fantasy of the nuclear age, this story of a pervy coward turned Bowie-esque rock god is a frantic meditation on artistic integrity and political responsibility, coming at a time when Sono's own career is mutating beyond the Japanese stadium. "Wonderfully daffy" (Variety), “Sono’s latest surreal offering feels like a genre-warping mash-up of Godzilla, Toy Story and Miracle on 34th Street" (The Hollywood Reporter).

A Road - North American Premiere

This Pia Film Festival Grand Prize-winning debut feature by 23-year-old Daichi Sugimoto is a refreshingly honest, inspired riff on a contemporary coming-of-age story that seamlessly blends narrative fiction and documentary with the young director playing the lead role. “Sugimoto paints an authentic portrait of a generation on its way to adulthood. [A Road] is a sensitive film about taking leave of childhood while preserving what it means to be a child.” –Berlin International Film Festival program notes.

"These first highlights exemplify this year's theme of looking back/looking forward to mark the 10th anniversary, particularly with regards to Japanese independent cinema, the importance of original voices, and the festivals’ ongoing mission to highlight the full range of cinematic output from Japan," says Aiko Masubuchi, head of film programming at Japan Society and one of three curators for the 2016 festival along with Kazu Watanabe and Joel Neville Anderson.

Two of the titles feature significant and established Japanese directors, Sion Sono and Ryosuke Hashiguchi, whose early work burst open doors for independent filmmakers and reinvigorated the film landscape in Japan. Newcomer Daichi Sugimoto uses cinema as self-reflection and exploration in the same spirit of the early films of Sono or Hashiguchi. Masubuchi notes, "With these storied filmmakers there was a fiercely independent attitude and approach mixed with an earnest desire to portray something honest about themselves and the world they live in. Sugimoto reminds us that that kind of cinema is still alive and well in Japan."

Similarly, The Shell Collector director Yoshifumi Tsubota follows the pursuit of personal expression and an original cinematic vision. His internationally-produced new film is an erotically-charged fantasy in which the world crashes in on a blind man attempting to pursue his passion of exploring ocean life shut away from society. Shot in Okinawa, The Shell Collector is local in its sense of place and global in its larger thematic meditations on nature and modernity.

In addition to screening some 30 feature length films, the 10th anniversary festival will include a handful of repertory screenings, dozens of narrative and avant-garde shorts, a filmmaking workshop, and will introduce a panel event consisting of filmmakers, producers, programmers, critics, and academics discussing the recent past and near future of Japanese cinema as well as the challenges of screening titles abroad in festivals and beyond.

Leading up to the festival, the Society will honor the festival’s ten-year benchmark with a ‘JAPAN CUTS Classic’ screening of Sion Sono’s Love Exposure on June 3, 2016, an audience favorite by one of contemporary Japanese cinema’s most influential filmmakers.

Lily Franky is a Japanese actor, illustrator, essayist, and author of the best-selling autobiographical novel Tokyo Tower: Me and Mom, and Sometimes Dad, which was adapted into a film in 2007. He is known to international film audiences for his performance in director Hirokazu Kore-eda's Like Father, Like Son, for which he won multiple awards including the Kinema Junpo and Japanese Academy awards for Best Supporting Actor. Other notable performances include Our Little Sister (directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda), Nobi (directed Shinya Tsukamoto), and The Devil’s Path (directed by Kazuya Shiraishi). The Shell Collector is Franky’s first starring role since 2008’s All Around Us by Ryosuke Hashiguchi.

Masubuchi says, “Over the last few years Lily Franky has quickly become one of the most sought after actors in Japanese cinema, working with major directors like Hirokazu Kore-eda, Shinya Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike and gaining an increasingly international presence. For even the most casual fan of contemporary Japanese cinema he is an instantly recognizable figure, often stealing whatever scene he is in with his natural charisma and mysterious edge even when playing a supporting character."

Founded in 2007, JAPAN CUTS gives cinephiles their first (and sometimes only) chance to discover the next waves of film from Japan today. The festival traditionally presents a range of titles from the biggest of Japanese blockbusters, raucous genre flicks, peerless independents, arthouse gems, radical documentaries and avant-garde forms, along with unique collaborative programs put together with the cooperation of other international organizations. Special guest actors and filmmakers join the festivities for Q&As, award ceremonies, and the wild themed parties and receptions audiences have come to expect, with live music, food and drink.

Japan Society has actively introduced Japanese cinema to New York’s international audiences since the 1970s, presenting works by the era’s new giants such as Shohei Imamura, Seijun Suzuki, and Hiroshi Teshigahara upon their first release, and groundbreaking retrospectives on now canonical figures such as Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu. Special guests such as Akira Kurosawa, Machiko Kyo, Toshiro Mifune, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, and Hideko Takamine had already been part of Japan Society’s events before JAPAN CUTS’ inception in 2007.

Since then the festival has attracted nearly 45,000 filmgoers and over 250 feature films, many never-before seen in the U.S. The first annual JAPAN CUTS was one of the most successful single events in the Society's 2007-08 centennial celebration. Noted for its "rich and varied selection of recent Japanese films" (The New York Times), JAPAN CUTS has premiered several films that have gone on to garner international acclaim, including: 0.5mm, 100 Yen Love, About Her Brother, Buy a Suit, Confessions, Death Note, Fish Story, Kamome Diner, Love Exposure, Milocrorze: A Love Story, The Mourning Forest, Ninja Kids!!!, Sawako Decides, Sukiyaki Western Django, Sway, Sketches of Kaitan City, The Tale of Iya, and United Red Army.

In Brief: Restoration (2016)

RESTORATION surprised the hell out of me. Running through a series of weak horror films I stumbled upon the film and only put it on  because the poster art caught my eye. Sometimes the poster is the way to choose a movie.

The film has a couple moving into a new home and finding a diary in the walls of their new home. The discovery unleashes all sorts of trouble as an evil is released.

I've been intentionally obtuse. The reason is not for you but for me, since if I wasn't that obtuse I'd be writing a review that reveals all and that is not the way to go. The way to go is to hit the ground running and just let the film wash over you.

To be honest this isn't the greatest horror film ever to come down the pike. On the other hand it's way better that a good number of horror films I've run across recently. There have been more than a few that looked good but had no mood and no sense of dread. RESTORATION has mood and a frequently sparkling sense of dread. Something is wrong and it's a bit before you can put your finger on it. Best of all the film has some nice moments that are properly chilly.

If the film at times seems to be treading familiar ground it still manages to keep you watching and best of all mumbling at the screen something about being disturbed.

Recommended.

Restoration releases digitally today and DVD on 7/5.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Belladonna of Sadness opens Friday

The best animated film you've probably never seen opens Friday. The mind blowing BELADONNA OF SADNESS is one of the greatest cinematic pieces of art I've ever run across. I was delighted to discover the film last year during Japan Cuts.  I talked about the film to anyone who would listen. Now the film is coming out and I get another shot at trying to get you to go see the film. To that end he's the piece I wrote after I saw the film and had my mind blown

Demanding to be as well known as the work of Ralph Bakshi, Jean-Francois Laguionie and Rene Laloux, BELLADONNA OF SADNESS is the third part of the Animara Trilogy released by Mushi Production. The other two parts (1001 NIGHTS and CLEOPATRA) were directed by Osamu Tezuka. This film was started by Tezuka who left the company early in production. The job of directing fell to Tezuka's collaborator Eiichi Yamamato and he turned in one hell of a film.

Based on Jules Michelet's SATANISM AND WITCHCRFT the film tells the story of lover Jean and Jeanne who marry and run afoul of the local Lord. Jeanne runs off to the woods and makes a pact with the devil...

Using music and an artistic style that mirrors classic artists such as Klimt, Beardsley as well as modern artists such as Michael Kaluta, Charles Vess, Moebius, Jeffrey Catherine Jones and others working in the late 60's and early 70's art scene this film is a trip and a half. This film is the very definition of a midnight movie, its so wild and trippy that had the film played the US (until the recent 4K restoration the film has never had an official English translation) back in the 70's it would have been hailed in the pantheon of great cult films like ELTOPO, ERASERHEAD, FANTASTIC PLANET, WIZARDS, and other similar head trip films.

How the hell could this film have remained off the radar for so long?

This film is a masterpiece on pretty much every level...and I need to see it again and again because watching the film for this review I realized that I was missing too much. I was either watching the story and missing the art or I was watching the art and ignoring the subtitles thus losing bits of the story.

This is one of those films that had the right people seen it way back when the history of animation could very well have been changed. Yes Bakshi was doing some similar things as were some European animators, but there is something about what Yamamato did here that is very different. A blending of stills and animation with different styles of art, traditional animation art, water color, magic marker, painting the film is weirdly free of constraints. It uses whatever it needs to to tell that seconds piece of the story. Nothing looks like Disney or Warners or even UPA.

Additionally Bakshi's films and the other animators films got regular releases. The films played in my neighborhood at my theaters. There is no way, outside of the odd art theater BELLADONNA would ever have played outside of midnight, it's too strange, too violent, too disturbing. The film would have played at midnight and gained a cult and become a secret film that all the cool people knew about. It would have been infused into popular culture the way many other midnight films were.

I'm sorry the art and animation geeks inside me have taken control of my fingers and are typing these words to you in the hope you will go see this truly awesome film.

Yes I know the story can be a tad slow and draggy, yes I know the violence (especially some against women) is ugly, but dear god almighty the art work and the animation not only redeems the film but makes it into one of the truly great animated films of all time.



RESTORED PIC OPENS MAY 6 AT NYC'S METROGRAPH THEATER AND SAN FRANCISCO'S ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE,
AND MAY 13 AT THE CINEFAMILY IN LOS ANGELES

The Best of It (2016)

Portrait of a number of sports gamblers in and around Las Vegas who make a living betting on games.

Good documentary is not for all audiences.  How you react to the film will depend upon how interested you are in sports gambling and how well you understand what they are doing. I have no interest in sports gambling and all of the talk of the actual gambling made my eyes glaze over.

On the other hand the interaction between the gamblers is the reason to at least try this film. The battle between Boston and Shrink is the heart of the film and it's conclusion is unexpected to say the least. Its the interaction between the guys, even if it's warring in their own interviews that gives the film momentum.

You will forgive my lack of detailed discussion on the film but this is a film one either cares for or doesn't. There is very little ground beyond that. I can't make up some magical thing that is going to make you want to see the film if the subject doesn't appeal to you, this isn't a film that transcends its subject not over comes its one flaw being at least a half an hour too long.

If the subject interests you give it a shot, otherwise give it a wide berth.

THE BEST OF IT hit VOD on Tuesday May 3

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Nightcap 5/1/16: Steve and Ariela's Tribeca Wrap up

Tribeca has been over for a week. Not that you’d know from the posts here at Unseen since we have been posting like mad since the festival started. Ariela, Roy and myself covered well over 100 films and events.  Its was so many events that we're still working on stuff that may end up dropping over the next week or so.

Now that it’s over its time to take stock. How was it?

That's a question Ariela and I are going to answer in our own ways- first my take:

Tribeca was, as it always is, something different than every other festival. It is unlike any other festival you can go to and no festivals are ever the same thanks to the festival always changing things up in some way.

The truth of the matter this was an okay year. It was not the peak of last year which for me had the high of seeing a reformed Monty Python and a live performance of Rifftrax. Almost nothing was going to top that high water mark for really cool. On its own terms the festival was just okay. I blame it on the film not having enough films that one could get excited about. While most of the films were good, there were very few that were great, or even bad. There is something about a good bad film to get the blood flowing. This year the films just kind of were there.

I have to say a huge thank you to Ariela and Roy for helping with the coverage. I couldn’t have done what we did without them. Besides they are just a blast to hang out with.

And of course any Tribeca isn't worth anything if one doesn't spend time with friends. It was great to hang with, Joe, Hubert, Lesley, Alec, Nate, Nora and Chris. As is the bench mark it was also wonderful to meet the lovely Lauren Humphries-Brooks who is a charmer and one of the founding minds behind the new all milkshake economy. And I love that Randi, John and Bully dropped in for lunch.

As much as it pains me I do have one bone to pick with the festival- they need to change how the audience award is picked. The fact that voting had to be done on line or at a kiosk within 30 minutes of the end of a film caused all sorts of problems. Most people I know had trouble voting. Everyone found they had so much trouble they simply stopped voting. I tried to vote after I saw the Man Who Knew Infinity and found the “kiosks” with lines where people were having problems. I couldn’t find anyone at SVA. A frequent topic of discussion was what was going to win the Audience Awards because no one seemed to be able to vote. The general consensus was that the balloting was going to go to a film that had a tech savy way of stuffing the ballot.

I find the move to electronic balloting curious since one of the best and most important films at the festival was I VOTED which posited that electronic voting is hackable and will not give you a correct result.

I hope next year the festival moves away from high tech for the voting and goes back to paper.

Okay enough of that on to good stuff…

What were my picks of the best films?

My list is split- the best/ favorites and just the ones that touched me. They may not be the best but the touched my heart.

BEST
Memories of the Penitent Heart- A deeply moving film about trying to find answers about our past and realizing that even when you have answers there may not be closure.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople-one of the best films of the year, period. A glorious adventure with two great characters
Obit- It makes you ponder how do you ponder a life
Maurizio Cattelan/Burden - Two artist bios about game changing artists that made you reconsider the artists and their art
Tickling Giants- Its one thing to say that we want to have free speech but would we risk death to make a joke?
Mr Church- Get past the heart on it's sleeve telling and you have Eddie Murphy giving a deeply touching performance in a moving film
Curmudgeons- Danny DeVito's best film is about being at the end of your life and still trying to find happiness. Just great
I Voted?- Electronic voting machines are bad- here's why- and if we don't listen we're going to be doomed as a democracy

FAVORITES
Courted- Charming romance/character study. What the hell- its real people on screen.
Reset- What happens when the Paris Opera Ballet brings in a guy who shakes everything up? A love letter to having fun when creating
Pistol Shrimps- one of the funniest films at Tribeca hurt me. I loved it


And now Ariela has her say

I saw 22 movies at the Tribeca Film Festival, beating my record from last year, which I believe was 14 movies. I had a great time! I always planned to see 3, sometimes 4 movies a day, but I soon realized that 2 was my limit, especially with the nice weather outside. I would go outside between movies, and wasn't able to talk myself into going back in. Last year, I remember seeing so so many movies that I loved and recommended to people. It was one great movie after another. This year I felt that I saw a lot of meh so so movies. There were a lot of movies I missed out on and wonder if I missed all the better ones, or was last year just better? Hopefully the ones I missed come out at some point and I'll find out.

Anyways, most of my favorite movies were documentaries. My favorite movie BY FAR was Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I can't say enough good things about it. I loved it so so much that I saw it a second time. Just such a great film. I've been told by 2 friends that Taika Waititi's (the director) other films are equally as great, I'll have to check them out.

Here is my list of documentaries that I really liked and recommend (in no order)

Life Animated
The Return
Night School
The Happy Film
Untouchable
Keep Quiet

Non documentaries that I recommend aside from Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Kicks

Steve's take on Hunt for the WIlderpeople (2015) Tribeca 2016


Wilderpeople is one of the best films to play Tribeca and one of the best of the year. A completely unexpected joy this film delighted everyone at the pre-festival screenings and was the measuring stick by which everyone rated every film they saw (It is now the second highest grossing film in the history of New Zealand)

The story begins when Ricky Baker is brought into the country to live with Aunt Bella and Hec. They are going to be his foster parents. Ricky is warned that if this doesn’t work he’s going to juvie (aka prison) because he is just too troubled to be anywhere else. Despite trying to runaway Bella takes him into her heart while Hec just grumbles. When Bella unexpectedly dies child services decides to take Ricky back. Hec is to heartbroken to fight. Ricky runs away, thinking he’s staging his own death but instead burning down the barn. Hec eventually finds Ricky in the wilderness and but trips breaking his foot necessitating a several week stay in the woods until it can heal. Things however become complicated since the child services woman think something horrible has gone on and sets a huge manhunt in motion. Soon Hec and Ricky are fugitives on the run.

Warm witty and laugh out loud funny Wilderpeople is an absolute joy. The write-up at the Tribeca website made it sound dour and serious when it is a film that will make you smile from ear to ear.

Everything works. There is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in this film. The best thing is the chemistry between Sam Neil and Julian Dennison who make a perfect on screen pair. You feel the love and respect between them and it seems absolutely real. One can imagine the two of them busting each other’s chops off screen.

This film is truly great. As I watched it all did beyond enjoy it was make a list of all the people I had to force to see the film.

You must see this film- it just kicks ass.

And if there is any justice this will be a huge hit and win tons of awards.

WILDER PEOPLE hits US theaters this summer

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lauren Humphries-Brooks ponder's Tribeca's Closing Night film The bomb (2016)

This year, the Tribeca Film Festival’s major theme was militarization and nuclear weapons. Documentaries about drone warfare (National Bird), nuclear accidents (Command and Control), and police militarization (Do Not Resist) featured heavily, prompting at least this writer to assume that we’re all going to die in an accidental nuclear holocaust, probably superintended by Scientologists (My Scientology Movie). The entire festival closed out with the centerpiece film the bomb, a multimedia art installation in the form of a 55-minute film about nuclear warfare and proliferation.

Projected in the round at Gotham Hall, the bomb places the audience in the center of 360 degrees of massive movie screens, while the band The Acid provides the soundtrack. The film takes the form of a loose and surreal examination of the world history of the Atomic Bomb, its construction, its beauty, and its awful destructive power. Beginning with terrifyingly rousing images of world militaries, the film plunges into the construction of weapons, using test footage from the first nuclear tests to news broadcasts from the contemporary period. There are clips from public service films from the 1950s and 60s, highlighting Cold War paranoia and reminding us that the public was convinced we could survive a nuclear explosion by ducking under school desks. While America’s nuclear arsenal is in the forefront (we did create the first Atomic Bomb, after all), the bomb casts some attention on Russia and China, as well as less armed nations. We’re reminded that there are enough nuclear weapons still existent (15,000 across the globe) to destroy the world nine times over.

The most powerful sections of the film involve the terrible beauty of nuclear explosions –it’s quite an experience to stand surrounded by mushroom clouds capable of annihilating whole sections of the planet. the bomb further highlights the beauty of atomic weaponry, its clean lines and complex mechanisms cast in loving, almost sexual detail, even as the audience is made aware of their destructive power. There is something seductive in such weapons, something in the sheer power, concentrated and controlled, ready to detonate at the press of a button. Such proximity to death writ large possesses an element of suspense, of tension – and the bomb reminds us that we’re sitting right on top of it.

the bomb might have reasonably given a bit more time to the effects of a nuclear attack – there’s certainly more footage and still images from the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that, while horrifying, might have driven home the film’s point with greater power. It is one thing to be faced with the explosive power of a weapon, which has in itself a certain beauty (and is something that we’ve all seen reproduced so much in Hollywood the real thing loses some weight), and quite another to see the human toll that nuclear attacks take. Any argument for the elimination of nuclear weapons cannot be merely content in sleek terror – we have to see the ugly reality as well.

And this is the problem with the bomb – it is an art installation, aesthetic and aesthetically pleasing, too absorbed in its own structure. It is too pretty, too artistic, to be truly powerful. There needed to be an element of the mess, of the violence, of palpable terror unmitigated by beauty. The film grows absorbed in its own seductive nature, fascinated by the weapons it abhors.

And it does abhor them. The premiere screening of the bomb was preceded by a panel discussion “What do we talk about when we talk about the bomb,” attended by Eric Schlosser, Michael Douglas, co-director/creator of the bomb Smitri Keshari, and Emma Belcher, Director of the International Peace and Security Program at the MacArthur Foundation. The panel discussed the contemporary rise of the no-nukes movement and the power that cinema has to affect change. They made it clear that the bomb was an attempt to draw younger participants to the no-nukes movement by highlighting the visceral dangers of nuclear weapons. It’s a reminder that nuclear weapons still exist, and are still the most profound threat the world faces.

But the bomb, for all its laudable intentions, is a drop in the cinematic ocean, one that does not really have the capacity to enact the real change that is needed. While it makes a passionate argument for the immersive power of cinema, the bomb is inaccessible to the people it needs most to convince. It is accessible only to the select few able to obtain tickets and stand, holding glasses of Hendricks, with their eyes cast skyward for the better part of an hour. We are standing on the precipice, and the bomb still keeps us looking skywards.

Ariela spends sometime with GEEZER (2016) Tribeca 2016

Geezer is the story of a man who was once a punk rock singer and is now a husband and father of two. His 40th birthday is approaching and he has a midlife crisis of sorts. He's conflicted between wanting to party and wanting to be responsible.

He rents an expensive hotel room but at the same time, his inlaws are in town and his daughter has a talent show. Will he stay and party or will he be responsible?

This was a fun film and I definitely enjoyed it. It's not a super deep film but it's worth seeing. Billie Joe Armstrong plays the lead and does a great job! I wonder if the film was inspired by his life at all since I know he's a dad and isn't performing much these days.

After the film Billie Joe took the stage, with drummer Tre Cool (Mike wasn't able to make it) performed. They played 2 songs from the film (Billie Joe wrote new music for the movie), then played one and a half Green Day songs. Joan Jett came out (she had a cameo in the film) and played Bad Reputation. It was a lot of fun!
Photos copyright Ariela Rubin

Tiger Raid (2016) Tribeca 2016

Two mercenaries in Iraq head into the desert on a mission. The plan is supposed to be a simple kidnapping turns complicated as secrets are kicked  into the open...

Billed as an action packed film by the Tribeca PR material this is, outside of two sequences deadly static. Essentially three people in a room, the film painfully shows it's stage origins by having nothing much happen for 90 minutes. This might have worked on stage but blown wildly out of proportion on the big screen its deadly.

The sad thing is that  not only does the film look good, the blackened eyes of the two soldier creates a haunting effect and the landscape is stunning, but the cast is truly amazing. Sofia Boutella is wonderful as the woman kidnapped while Brian Gleeson and Damien Molony turn in star making performances as the soldiers. Gleeson is scary good and may eclipse his famous father (hell give me a film where they go head to head).

The problem is nothing happens. They guys drive to the house, take the hostage and then talk. Even though the location shifts at one point it comes across more as desperation by the director to fabricate action. Its a bad move since it adds nothing to the story.

After the screening there was a great deal of talk about why the film was set in Iraq. The film could have been set anywhere at any time. There is nothing in the tale that requires it to be a war story, it could be just a gangster story. It hadn't occurred to me, but the feeling is dead on. Why is this set  in  Iraq?

More importantly why am I being asked to see this since any points its trying to make are obvious and over early leaving the film no where to go.

Fantastic performances aside I'm disappointed.

Friday, April 29, 2016

In Brief: Courted (2015) Tribeca 2016

COURTED is an absolute gem. Probably the biggest happy surprise of Tribeca this is a must see -especially since I don't know when this will show up at a theater near you.

In France a stern judge finds that a woman with whom he has a a connection is picked for the jury of a case he is presiding over. A strict jurist he isn't liked by many people, though he is respected, his life is in flux since he is getting a divorce and is living in a hotel. The juror in question is a lovely lady to whom he was attracted.  Quietly asking for a drink he hopes to connect once more..

In no way a mystery or thriller this is just a great drama about two souls circling each other. The fact that the characters  are are real and that the emotions expressed are relateable make this an absolute joy.

I'm not afraid to say that the end of the film had me getting misty.

I can't say enough good about the film. I hadn't intended on seeing it but when a friend suggested that another film might be bad, I went to see this instead and ended up seeing one of my favorite films at Tribeca.

Track this one down and keep your eye out for it because it will utterly delight you.

Here Alone (2016) Tribeca 2016

You've been here before-hell Tribeca was here last year with the SURVIVALIST which is almost the exact same film as this except this has zombie stand ins.

To be honest not only have you been here you've seen similar tales 900 times before. If you like post apocalyptic zombie like stories you've seen this, except here not a hell of a lot happens.

The plot has a woman living alone in the woods after a viral outbreak has caused society to collapse after the the infected turn violent and blood lust filled. Think of them as zombies. Into her life comes a girl and her step father and the group kind of forms a family...for a while.

This might have worked if the film had stayed with the woman alone in the forest but the inclusion of the zombies just starts this going on a road we've all seen before. For a while it still works thanks to a refusal to see the monsters until the end- but then they show up and the film gets silly.

If the slow pacing and feeling we've seen this before wasn't bad enough, the film deteriorates from logic problems more and more as it goes on. The biggest problem comes from the constant raiding of the same house  for food over and over again. Why the same house? More importantly why does it have chain link around it and why are the beasts there? We could take it further and dismantle the climatic scene but that would be telling you too much- but lets just say it makes no sense- none.

Glacially paced this film will try your patience. There were all sorts of technical problems during the screening as if the projector was rejecting the film.

You can skip this one because you've seen it all before.

Tickling Giants (2016) Tribeca 2016

For me the idea of free speech is an important thing. Being able to tell our leaders to eat shit and die is vital to a free society. Its why seeing people such as Donald Trump calling on his followers to silence the opposition is terrifying. The world has become stupidly reflexive  to the point that no one can take a joke. Everyone takes offense at everything. People have forgotten that while we have many rights, we do not have a right not to be offended. If we aren't allowed to make fun of things, and of offending those in power then we have lost a basic human right. Being able to do so helps prevent the authoritarian bond because it brings the demagogue and tyrants down to earth.

For the time being, the Unites States is still a free society. We can still speak our minds and make jokes (as long as we are not on a college campus or Trump rally). In theory we can still more or less say what we mean. If we say something, we are not, ipso facto, going to die. However where Bassem Youssef is concern the wrong joke could get him killed.

TICKLING GIANTS is one of the best films at Tribeca. Its at the top of the heap as to the recent run of films about humor and free speech. It gets to the top because where other films deal with the ideas in the abstract this look at Bassem Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt is what happens when you make fun of dictators.

Youssef is not a comedian by trade, he was and is a surgeon. However then the Arab Spring happened he and a friend started doing an internet program in the style of Jon Stewart. As the government changed Youssef was offered a weekly TV series doing what he had been doing on line. His show was so popular that over 30 million people tuned in each night (Stewart's peak nightly viewership was only 2 million). As the political climate changed yet again Youssef found himself in deep trouble as the network dropped him and there were serious calls for his assassination.

Charting the run of Youssef's show from internet hit to TV hit to political target with death threats TICKLING GIANTS shows us very clearly what could happen if we lose the right to speak up. A wonderful brother to CAN WE TAKE A JOKE? which looked at humor and censorship, GIANTS reveals what will happen when censorship come knocking, fear and death. This is not abstract ideas or people arguing in the streets, this is people with bombs and guns trying to silence the opposition. Its terrifying. It is this real world practicality that lifts the film over some other similar docs.

GIANTS is also very funny thanks to Youssef's refusal to stop making jokes about things. Yes he gets serious but he always seems to find a joke in there somewhere. Life may get dangerous but the jokes just keep on coming.

TICKLING GIANTS moved me. Here is a stunning portrait of a man who refuses to back down and shut up. Youssef's inability to buckle puts him high in the pantheon of those who fought for our human right to speak our minds. While Youssef has avoided the price that Lenny Bruce paid (so far) there is still a heavy price that he is paying.

This is one of the best films of 2016 and and an absolute must see. You must see what a the lessening of free speech will bring.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

14 Minutes from Earth (2016) Tribeca 2016

14 MINUTES FROM EARTH the story of Google executive Alan Eustace's record breaking free fall from 25 miles up. We watch as how Eustace assembles his team, builds the equipment needed to do the jump and the executes the feat.

This is a great tale of human research and adventure. Its one that will get your blood pumping and and your pulse racing once it all goes down.

The trouble is that the film is hurt by a cinematic style that makes it look like any one of the testosterone fueled History Channel or Discovery Channel shows that have lousy narration and pump everything up with effects and booming music. You know the ones that create false suspense by showing you a weirdly edited moment where something goes wrong just before you go to commercial and then when you go back the suspenseful thing is found to be a non starter? Its that sort of thing that happens a couple of times in 14 MINUTES and it wrecks the genuine suspense of the event. Of course it's not entirely surprising since the directors work for the National Geographic Channel which itself is full of shows that do the same thing.

The other problem is that the whole thing seems  much too slick. Put part of the blame on the narration which can be so purple, and condescending, especially at the start, that the film seems like a sales reel or a 15 minute TV segment bumped up to 85 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, I like the film a great deal, but I wanted something that doesn't feel like so much stuff that's on TV.

A Q&A followed the Tribeca screening with Eustace and directors Jerry Kolber, Adam “Tex” Davis and it was funny charming and more akin to what the film should have been. The talk went into how things were filmed (go pros, and the reduction of the film crew from 7or 8 down to two or three-the film crew was bigger than the tech crew at the start),  changes that were made to the suit (the placement of switches and such changed), did Google fund the jump (no but they gave Eustace all the time he needed to do it) and did Eustace's wife make good on her threat to beat him up (no). There was lots of joviality as every one joked and kibitzed bringing out details the film left out.

I like the film but I loved the Q&A

(Serious Question- was I the only one in the theater who bought his own ticket and didn't know someone connected to the film or the jump?)

Pistol Shrimps (2016) Tribeca 2016

PISTOL SHRIMPS maybe the funniest film at Tribeca. Its a laugh out loud film that is going to find an audience simply because it's so damn funny

The story of a group of women, many actresses and writers in LA, who started a women's basketball league. They originally just wanted to play in a league but when they couldn't find one they started their own and it went from six teams to now well over twenty four.

An utterly charming and I have to say it again very funny film about sports and the need to compete and make friends. The games have become a major focal point in all the women's lives to the extent that all of the women in the league have switched their Facebook profile pictures to them in basketball attire. With in the confines of the league the women are finding a place to be themselves and not talk about life in Hollywood.

I was hesitant to give myself over but the women all won me to their side. It doesn't hurt that all of the women are charming and that they all possess wicked sense of humor. Nothing is sacred and they let loose with a steady stream of one liners that had me doubled over in laughter. Things get even funnier when we are introduced the the Shrimp's play by play announcers who kind of announce the games and kind of free form comedy.

This is a must see was one of the best films at Tribeca.

HIGHLY recommended.