MSPIFF 2015 Review: The Connection (La French)

MSPIFF15reviewsTheConnectionBnrIncluding many homages to past crime films, The Connection is an interesting procedural with too few surprises until its final act. At the film’s beginning, Pierre Michel (Jean Dujardin, excellent) is a hard-working cop investigating youth drug-related crimes. His effectiveness gets him promoted to magistrate, where he is tasked with investigating France’s organized crime network, led by Gaetan Zampa (Gilles Lellouche, also excellent). Upon his promotion, Michel proves skilled, not least because he’s willing to bend the rules, sometimes even to break the law, all in the name of justice. That Michel is unreasonably obsessive about catching Zampa is of no concern to him, but is still a source of severe worry for his family.

TheConnectionDujardinLellouche

Dujardin & Lellouche

Which brings us to The Connection’s greatest merit: its characters. Writer/director Cédric Jimenez and co-writer Audrey Diwan layer both Zampa and Michel, crafting each man as complex human beings with merits and flaws aplenty. Here Zampa being on the “wrong” side of the law does not mean we dislike him. And, though we can certainly root for Michel, we do not necessarily approve of everything he does. By making both men complex, Jimenez and Diwan hold our attention. That they develop several secondary characters well also helps.

The Connection’s second greatest merit: some of it’s filmmaking technique. Its production design mirrors 1970s era crime films. And it’s costuming is genius. As the plot’s era shifts from ‘70s to ‘80s, so too does the style of characters’ outfits.

TheConnectionStill2The film’s biggest weakness? The plot. For much of the picture’s run-time it is borderline boiler plate, including many seemingly obligatory scenes.

Yet, this flaw is of relatively minor consequence, partially because the actors and characters are so good we accept predictable developments. For example, we always know Pierre’s wife Jacqueline (Celine Sallette) will eventually express unhappiness with her husband’s choices, but Dujardin and Sallette sell the conflict so convincingly that we don’t mind the moment’s predictability.

TheConnectionDujardinSalletteThen comes the finale, about which I will say very little, except this: it is at least a little surprising. And also terrific, in all regards. Yes, at times The Connection is too procedural, but it is quite good all the same.

4Reels

JoshP_review


What are your thoughts on The Connection?

MSPIFF 2015 Review: GIRLHOOD (Bande de Filles)

MSPIFF15reviewsGirlhoodPosterOne of my favorite things about film festivals is that you get to see indie gems like Girlhood that you otherwise wouldn’t even find. It’s especially gratifying to see a female-centric drama that’s written AND directed by a female filmmaker, Céline Sciamma.

Girlhood or Bande de Filles (Gang of Girls) is primarily centered on a 16-year-old girl Marime. Abused by her brutish older brother, with dead-end school prospects and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to freedom.

At a glance, it seems like a gritty drama about a gang of girls set in a low-income suburbs of Paris. We see the girls involve in what you’d expect a street gang would do — mugging, stealing, smoking pot, street fighting, etc. There’s a certain realism to the way these scenes play out and the mostly unknown actresses are believable in their roles. Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamoh, Mariétou Touré played the roles of Lady, Adiatou and Fily, respectively.

Girlhood_still2Karidja Touré is mesmerizing as Marime. I could feel her pain and somehow identify her pain despite our lives being so completely different. But y’know what, we can all relate as a human being… I was young once and there were points in my life where I wanted to feel like I belong, that I am loved… and more importantly, that I have the freedom to do what I want without fear. Even as an adult we often face a crossroad where the path isn’t immediately clear. And for someone with such limited options like Marime, that conflict is surely amplified. The way the film portrayed Marime made it so easy for me to connect with her journey to find her place in the world.

There are so many memorable scenes in the film, such as when Marime first approached the three girls and later taking the train to Paris with them. There’s also the time ‘Lady’ the gang leader first gave Marime the ‘Vic’ necklace. It’s as if she’s now an *official* member with her new name — Vic for victory. Slowly the girls took her in and the bond between them felt real to me.

Girlhood_still3My all time favorite scene, which I immediately rewound right after it’s over, is the moment when the girls are all dressed up in their rented hotel room. Sciamma filmed the scene like a music video where the girls started dancing and lip-syncing to Rihanna’s Diamond. There’s something so vibrant, effervescent vibe about that whole scene, yet poignantly moving. Marime was watching her friends first, but then joined in. It literally made me smile AND cry at the same time, and instantly I thought of my own *gang* of friends in high school who helped me through my pain of losing my late mother.

As Marime became ‘Vic’, naturally she’s started to give in to the rebellious nature that every teen has within. As she gains more confidence, the more vicious she’s become and does things she probably never thought she’d do. The film isn’t afraid of quiet moments where it’s just Marime alone with her thoughts, yet her expression conveys so much. Another thing I love about the film is how it doesn’t resort to stereotypes or oversimplifications. For one thing, not all the guys in Marime’s lives are evil, in fact, the heart-to-heart talk she has with her boyfriend is genuinely heartfelt.

Girlhood is Céline Sciamma‘s third feature, and she’s no stranger to the world of adolescence as her first two films deal with that world. Naturally stories of ‘growing up’ is an emotional mine and the French director has such a keen eye to explore the intricate aspect of youth in such a fascinating way. I also love the fact that despite the difficult and dark issues of the story, the film isn’t bleak and depressing. I laughed, cried, and cheered from start to finish, all the way to the gratifyingly-emotional finale. It’s not the kind of ending tied neatly in a pretty bow, but that’s exactly how I wanted it to end. There’s such power in that last shot of Marime.

Girlhood_still1

Visually speaking, I love the stylish cinematography and moody colors. It’s an ear-candy as well with electric pop soundtrack filled with awesome songs! I can’t recommend this film enough, folks. I don’t know if this film is eligible for a Best Foreign Language Oscar but if it did, I’d definitely be rooting for it! It’s amazing that this is Karidja Touré‘s debut role as she has such a screen presence. I can’t wait to see what she’d tackle next. I’ll be on the lookout for Sciamma‘s next project as well.

4halfReels


Has anyone seen GIRLHOOD? Would love to hear your thoughts!

My entry to the Five Senses Blogathon

FiveSensesBlogathonIn association with Dutch moviepodcasters MovieInsiders (who inspired this blogathon) and Karamel Kinema, who did the stunning logo, Nostra of My Film Views spearheaded The Five Senses blogathon.

Here’s the idea in his own words:

As you know the body has five senses (although some movies might suggest there is a sixth one): Sight, Sound, Taste, Smell and Touch.

So what’s the idea behind this blogathon? For each of these senses you will have to describe the movie related association you have with it. This can be a particular movie or even a scene, but also something having to do with the movie going experience (so for example the smell of popcorn in the theater).

So here are my pick of movies/movie related things I associate with each of the senses?

 

SIGHT

Avatar

Despite the lack of original story and other quibbles I have about this film, when it comes to visual effects, it’s tough to beat this one. I remember back in 2009 I got one of those advanced previews dubbed Avatar Day to see this and I was so excited! Seeing Pandora for the first time on the big screen was quite a thrill, but not until I saw the full film that my jaw was on the floor. I remember ooh-aahing during the chopper scene through those flying mountains… the reaction of Jake & his friend pretty much echo how we all felt in the movie theater.

But the most breathtakingly-beautiful scene of all, that remains a visual marvel to this day, has got to be all the night scenes in Pandora…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

SOUND

Jurassic Park

It’s no surprise this Spielberg film won two Oscars for Best Sound Editing AND Best Sound Mixing. The sound truly made the experience and I’ll never forget the first time the T-Rex made an appearance when the park’s electricity went kaput. Starting with vibrating water scene in the car, the mysterious thumping that gets more and more pronounced… all the way to that first roar. OH MY, that’s quite an adrenaline rush unlike any other.

The sound work in the kitchen scene is incredible as well. It REALLY made you feel as if you’re there with these poor kids! It’s hilarious but terrifying at the same time.

 

TASTE

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Naturally I pick a scene from a film about food, but I have to pick this under-appreciated one I saw recently. I LOVE breakfast food, especially Omelet, so I could practically taste the yummy-ness of this very scene.

HundredFootJourneyOmeletSceneI love Helen Mirren’s expression after she took the first bite, oh man, I was salivating as I was watching this!

 

TOUCH

Hand-touching scenes in period dramas

I’m such a hopeless romantic. There’s something about hand scenes in period dramas that always gets me. Given how restrictive the customs in those days was, even the smallest physical expression means SO much. I felt a tingle in my own hands whenever I watched each of these scenes…

The first time Margaret & John’s fingers touch ever so briefly when she handed him the tea cup…

When Marianne’s and Willoughby’s fingers brush lightly against each other’s as they went up the stairs…

I’ve mentioned the ‘Mansfield Park’ one in this list, but it bears mentioning again because it’s just such a beautiful & emotional scene. Neither Fanny nor Edmund could speak of how they feel about each other, but a simple touch speaks more than a thousand words…

Of course the finale of ‘Pride & Prejudice’ has to be mentioned here… I love Darcy’s reaction when Lizzie took his hand and kisses it… no words need to be spoken to say how she feels about him.

 

SMELL

Coco Before Chanel

chanelno5I have to admit I struggled a bit to come up with this one, but for some reason I kept going back to this. As I was watching the film starring Audrey Tautou, I reminisced on the first perfume I was ever given. My globe-trotting auntie gave me a CHANEL No. 5 mini perfume when I was about 14 and it was the first perfume I ever owned. My late mother was a big CHANEL perfume fan and I still remember quite vividly how much I love the scent. I guess smell is such a sentimental thing, as it could really take you back to a certain time and place.

CocoBeforeChanelI’ve used many different perfumes since then, but this classic Chanel perfume will always have a special place in my heart. I even dedicated a post for the exquisite Chanel No.5 ads, inspired by the film.

 …


Well, that’s my picks for the Five Senses Blogathon, what do you think?

MSPIFF 2015 Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

MSPIFF15reviewsCloudsOfSilsMariaAt first glance, the film sounds like another commentary on the state of the entertainment industry. But it’s a rarity to see a complex female character at the center of it, and the film benefited from three excellent performances by Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz. An unlikely trio to be sure, yet each brings such authenticity to their character and they keep the film grounded despite the sometimes aimless wandering of Olivier Assayas‘ direction.

Binoche plays an international film star Maria Enders who’s at the peak of her career. She reluctantly accepts a role in a revival play, Maloja Snake, that made her famous twenty years earlier. Back then she played the role of Sigrid, a young girl who has an intense but eventually catastrophic with her much older female boss, Helena. Of course this time Maria’s asked to play Helena, which brings some sort of internal crisis as she grapples with the dark themes of the play, as well as the issue of aging and the shift of entertainment landscape in general. The dialog between Binoche and Stewart who plays her dedicated personal assistant Valentine are revelatory and amusing, I enjoy the honesty and frankness of their relationship. Val seems to understand Maria more than she’s given credit for, and despite their sometimes prickly banters, they obviously have a strong bond together.

CloudsofStilsMariaStill1

Some have compared the story to Birdman and All About Eve and they do share similar themes, but there’s enough uniqueness in the protagonist’s journey and relationship. Moretz’s character Jo-Ann, a Lindsay-Lohan type starlet who’s talented but self-destructive is fascinating, as you could say that it resembles Stewart who was quite the tabloid fodder during her Twilight years. During a rather hilarious conversation where Val’s trying to convince Maria that there’s more to Jo-Ann and her seemingly shallow sci-fi character, I couldn’t help but think of Stewart herself. This could very well be Stewart’s answer to the naysayers (me included) that she could act, that she’s more than just a ball of nerves who can’t stop fidgeting. I have to say that she succeeded with this role and she earned her groundbreaking César award.

I read on IMDb that the film’s premise was Binoche’s idea, she pitched that to writer/director Olivier Assayas and he wrote a script with the idea. So no wonder Binoche was perfect in the role of Maria and no doubt it’s a character the international film star herself could relate to. Even at 51, she’s still as stunning as her much younger co-stars. There’s a certain self-assuredness as well as raw vulnerability in Maria that Binoche captured perfectly. She’s frustrating at times but never irritating, at least not to me. There are also some humorous moments when she googled Jo-Ann and was shocked/amused by all her shenanigans captured by paparazzi.

CloudsofStilsMariaStill2

The film is shot 35-mm film and it’s simply stunning. It can practically serves as a travel video to the Swiss Alps, especially the resort town St Moritz. The Maloja Snake refers to the thick white low-lying cloud formation that *slithers* its way along the mountainsides and it’s captured beautifully on screen. The classically-tinged score is lovely too, it’s definitely the kind of music I enjoy and it fits the mood and tone of the film well. I’m really glad I saw this on the big screen and it’s become one of my favorites of the year. There are some slow moments and the ending dragged on a bit, but for the most part I was quite engrossed in the story. It’s rare to see such a well-developed, female-centric dramas these days, so kudos to Assayas for writing/directing one that also feels authentic. But the stars truly belong to both Binoche and Stewart, especially the latter who’s able to convince me that she’s an actress worth writing about.

4Reels


Have you seen Clouds of Sils Maria? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: Netflix’s Daredevil + MSPIFF 2015 Reviews: Secrets of War & The Dinkytown Uprising

Happy Monday everyone!

So it’s been a pretty packed weekend for me but thankfully the weather is practically Summer-like, which definitely adds an extra spring in my step. It’s the opening weekend of MSPIFF too, so I’ve watched a couple of films including Clouds of Sils Maria which was nominated for a Cannes’ Palme d’Or and a Best Supporting Actress win for Kristen Stewart. My review of it will be up tomorrow, but today we have two film fest reviews from Josh. But before we get to that, I just want to give my brief thoughts on Netflix Original Series Daredevil that premiered this weekend:
NetflixDaredevilI actually never saw the Ben Affleck version, but even from the trailer/clips I could surmise that it’s awful indeed. I have to admit that initially I was skeptical of Charlie Cox casting, as he’s such a cute face, and that isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation when you want to play a bad-ass vigilante. But y’know what, right from the get go, my doubts were erased. The British actor is quite convincing both as the blind lawyer + the vigilante.

My hubby & I have only seen 4/13 episodes so far but boy, this is definitely NOT a PG-rated Marvel adaptation. The words ‘dark & gritty’ have been used to describe a lot of stuff but it’s definitely no hyperbole when it comes to this show. In fact, it’s hyper-violent and bloody, I had to avert my eyes during the last 5 minutes of episode 4! But I like the meticulous & slo-burn pacing, the benefit of releasing all the episodes at once is that each episode doesn’t have to be ‘all-action-all-the-time’ and we actually get some character development by showing flashbacks of Matt Murdoch’s past, as well as more time with the secondary characters such as Matt’s BFF & partner in law Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). They also have two strong female characters, Karen & Claire (Deborah Ann Woll & Rosario Dawson, respectively). I like both of them in the role, especially Dawson who’s always effortlessly appealing. But one thing for sure, people who love R-rated action and fantastically-choreographed fight scenes would NOT be disappointed.

So in short, I’ll definitely keep watching! I might do a review once we get through all 13 episodes. How about you? Did you see it?


MSPIFF15reviews

Secrets of War (Oorlogsgeheimen)

SecretsofWarFusing two well-known stories and thereby hitting dual-genre notes, Secrets of War is a quality picture. The first, and more successful, of the film’s two stories: the ways a friendship between two newly-adolescent Dutch boys, Tuur (Maas Bronkhuyzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers), is tested, first by a girl, Maartje (Pippa Allen), they both like, and then by World War Two, something neither child initially understands. The second story, an anti-war treatise, is slightly less successful than the first, but it still relates the ways war tears apart uninvolved lives. 

All three young actors are very good, especially Allen who convincingly shows us her secrets long before the screenplay has her tell them to us. But Secrets of War’s scene stealer is Loek Peters, who plays Tuur’s father. Peters (and the other grown-ups in Tuur’s family) is the vehicle through which director Dennis Bots and writer Karin van Holst Pellekaan show the tragedies of World War Two, but they never let him speak all that much, which means he has to communicate the gravity of the situation non-verbally. Thankfully, he does just that.

SecretsofWarStill1

SecretsofWarStill2

Pellekaan’s screenplay and Bots’ direction is excellent for the first three-fourths of film, but it slips a little in the final act, when events are rushed, perhaps in an effort to speed to conclusion. A slower, more character-driven approach to the finale would have cemented the picture’s emotion and thereby helped deliver its themes.

The missteps near the end of Secrets of War do not ruin the film, however. It is still well worth viewing.

3halfReels

JoshP_review

The Dinkytown Uprising 

A documentary about a lengthy 1970’s neighborhood protest against a Red Barn fast-food restaurant entering a beloved Minneapolis community, The Dinkytown Uprising is interesting and entertaining. Interspersing modern interviews of former protestors with on-the-scene 1970 video showing the actual rallies, the film effectively informs the viewer about the protests, the protestors, and their links to the Vietnam War. It makes us care about each of the protestors, as well, ensuring that we remain interested throughout.

DinkytownUprising2 The Dinkytown Uprising is, in other words, a good film.

But it isn’t perfect, mostly because director Al Milgrom’s secondary goal is to connect the 1970 Dinkytown protests with modern efforts to preserve the historic neighborhood. More than that, it seems Milgrom wants us to agree that the neighborhood should be protected. Here he stumbles, mostly because he never draws a direct link between the picture’s informative intent and its persuasive efforts. The director might have benefited from a closer look at larger corporations’ modern efforts to enter the neighborhood. Given that he doesn’t do so, the few times he intimates concern for the community, it feels out of place with the rest of the film’s content.

DinkytownUprising1Still, while this flaw is significant, it is not debilitating. The skill with which Milgrom combines interviews, narration, and found footage is impressive. And overall, his picture succeeds.

3halfReels

JoshP_review


So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on Daredevil or any of these films?

MSPIFF 2015 is here once again! April 9-25: 17 days, 250+ films!

MSPIFF15

The Film Society kicked off the 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival last Thursday with the Opening Presentation, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (actor Cory Peterson attending). This hilarious Swedish comedy, the highest grossing film in the country’s history, launches 17 days of more than 250 remarkable films, visiting filmmakers, exciting parties, and enlightening panel discussions.

I’ve said this before but really, I’m fortunate to live in a city that has TWO film festivals, one in Spring and the other (TCFF) in Autumn, two of my favorite seasons! Founded in 1962, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We bring the best of international and independent film to Minnesota audiences through the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, numerous niche film festivals and series, and nightly programming 365-days a year.

Check out the awesome MSPIFF official trailer:

One of the exciting 2015 programs of MSPIFF is that the Women and Film program, featuring 40+ films under that category/genre.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is dedicated to representing the work of women filmmakers as a critical part of its programming. Look for the Women and Film tag as you decide what to see at the 2015 Festival. It identifies the outstanding films by women directors and related events that are part of the Festival’s program this year.


Check out the full MSPIFF 2015 Schedule

MSPIFF_StoneArchCinema

Photo courtesy of mspfilm.org

Last year’s opening night film, Amma Asante‘s period drama Belle, ended up being one of my top 10 films of 2014, and it’ll likely be one of my fave films of all time! I wonder which other films I’ll be seeing this year will also make my top 10 of the year. Unfortunately, this year I won’t have time to see as many films as I did last year, but I have Josh from JJames Reviews to help me out again like last year. So hopefully between the two of us, we’ll get to about a couple dozen films.

Here are a sampling of films we hope to catch in the next three weeks:

FEATURE FILMS

Clouds of Sils Maria
At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago, only this time she will take the role of the older woman. Seeking refuge in Sils Maria, a remote region of the Alps, to rehearse the play, she takes stock in her career and her unknown future with her young assistant. Director Olivier Assayas takes pleasure in being coy by with his two stars—Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart—as he knowingly layers references to their own lives and roller coaster careers.

USA | 124 min | English
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz

The Center
Produced by Jonathan Demme and shot locally in St Paul, Charlie Griak’s atmospheric debut focuses on a vulnerable young man who falls into the trap of a cult-like group. Ryan is a recent college grad searching not only for a job but also for a meaning in life. When he comes across a self-help organization, simply known as The Center, with a charismatic leader, Ryan seems to have found what he has been looking for.

USA | 72 min | English
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Matt Cici, Judd Einan, Ramon Pabon

The Connection
Inspired by true events, The Connection tells the story of real-life Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (played by Jean Dujardin from The Artist) and his relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection. In his crosshairs is charismatic and wealthy kingpin, Gatean “Tany” Zampa (aka La French), who runs the largest underground heroin trade into the States. Shot entirely on 35mm, Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection is a throwback to a time when 70s Italian and American crime dramas reigned supreme.

France | 135 min | French
Directed by: Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Ce´line Sallette

Girlhood (Bande de filles)
Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school prospects and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to a new life. Director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies,Tomboy) cements her cinematic expertise in exploring the many facets of young female identity with her most powerful film yet.

France | 112 min | French
Directed by: Charlie Griak
Starring: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamouh

El Critico
A playful yet heartfelt take on the rom-com genre, El Critico follows Victor Tellez, a world-weary Buenos Aires film critic who prefers to think in French and eschews romantic clichés…until he finds himself living one. Tellez drifts from screening to screening in search of cinematic perfection, casting judgment on filmmakers and their films with scathing incisiveness. But when a chance meeting throws him into the jarring world of gorgeous thrill-seeker Sofia, he starts to question his meticulous, intellectual routine and realizes there’s more to his story than he ever dreamed.

Argentina| 98 min | Spanish/French
Directed by: Hernán Guerschuny
Starring: Rafael Spregelburd, Dolores, Blanca Lewin

….

Marshland
True Detective, Spainsh-style! A series of brutal murders of adolescent girls in a remote and forgotten town bring together two disparate characters—both detectives in the homicide division—to investigate the cases. With deep divisions in their ideology, detectives Juan and Pedro must put aside their differences if they are to successfully hunt down a killer who for years has terrorized a community in the shadow of a general disregard for women rooted in a misogynistic past. Alberto Rodríguez paints a gritty noir portrait of rural Spain circa 1980, rich with style, ambience and character.

Spain | 105 min | Spanish
Directed by: Alberto Rodríguez
Starring: José Antonio Félez, Mercedes Gamero, Ricardo García Arrojo

Labyrinthus
Discovering a backpack containing a USB key and a strange old camera, 14 year-old Frikke unknowingly starts a computer game that uploads real children, animals, and objects from his world into a gigantic labyrinth in the gaming world. Ordinarily, Frikke is expert at computer games; but this one is real! Frikke’s avatar must help his friends, Nora and Marco, through the labyrinth, escape from the game’s evil creator, and break the code that will release them. At least one third of the action takes place in a CGI animated alternate reality; the rest in Ghent, Belgium. Frikke must find the connection between these two worlds, before its too late!

Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Douglas Boswell
Starring: Spencer Bogaert, Emma Verlinden, Felix Maesschalck

Chagall-Mallevich
A story of love and passion, hatred and egotism, and the clash of huge creative personalities, Chagall – Malevich is based on real events that occurred during the time of Marc Chagall’s short-lived Vitebsk period (1917-18), a time in which he created an Academy of Modern Art inspired by dreams of a bright and beautiful future. More than 140 copies of paintings by Chagall and his brilliant colleague Kazimir Malevich were made for the film. Here, too, is the story of Chagall’s wife Bella and her selfless love for her husband. It’s a story further complicated by her former childhood friend and one-time suitor Naum, a bitter man who is now a Soviet Commissar.

Russia | 120 min | Russian
Directed by: Aleksandr Mitta
Starring: Leonid Bichevin, Anatoliy Belyy

///

The Golden Era
Hong Kong master Ann Hui vividly brings the life of pioneering 20th century female novelist and poet Xiao Hong to the screen. Hui’s lavishly shot period piece shifts perspective, narrators, and time periods freely as it chronicles Xiao Hong’s struggles—an oppressive family, an arranged marriage, a fiery affair with fellow writer Xiao Jun, and her passion, compulsion and talent for writing—until her death at age 30 in 1942.

China/Hong Kong | 178min | Chinese (Mandarin)
Directed by: Ann Hui
Starring: Tang Wei, Feng Shao Feng

To Life! (Auf Das Leben!)
Fate has taken its toll on the aging cabaret singer Ruth and the young but terminally-ill Jonas. Yet despite their great age difference and their entirely opposite experiences in life, they form an intense bond and give each other a reason and purpose to live.

ToLife_Deutschfilm

Germany | 90 min | German
Directed by: Uwe Janson
Starring: Hannelore Elsner, Max Riemelt, Sharon Brauner

Gods
Riveting, fast paced, compelling and filled with humor, Gods is the story of the rebel cardiac surgeon, Zbigniew Religa, who performed the first successful heart transplant in Soviet controlled Poland in 1984. With the support of his renegade medical team, he battled everyone including fellow doctors, the communist bureaucracy and a shocked religious community, Religa, to make history and become a national hero.

Poland | 120 min | Polish
Directed by: Lukasz Palkowski

Secrets of War
In a Nazi-occupied Dutch village that’s slowly changing, 12 year-olds Tuur and Lambert initially incorporate the war into their childhood games. Until the boys begin to question what they see: a toy appearing out of a passing train; traces of people’s belongings in the underground caves; secretive parents. Befriending Maartje, a new girl in town, the boys’ friendship is tested when they learn a powerful secret of their own and the reality of war changes their childhoods forever.

Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Dennis Bots
Starring: Maas Bronkhuyzen, Joes Brauers, Pippa Allen

… 

DOCUMENTARIES

The Dinkytown Uprising
The year is 1970 and the disastrous Vietnam War keeps escalating. Protests are erupting all over U.S. campuses. But in Minneapolis, word that the national Red Barn Restaurant chain wants to erect a new fast-food franchise in old, venerable Dinkytown, the “war at home”  takes a different turn. This stunning documentary chronicles the unprecedented 40-day, 40-night continuous Dinkytown “Occupation” to prevent construction of an unwanted hamburger joint.

Directed by: All Milgrom

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence focuses on a family of survivors who discovers how their son was murdered in the 1965 Indonesian genocide, as well as the identities of the killers. The youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, decides to break the suffocating silence by confronting the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions.

Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer

 

Every Face Has a Name

In Every Face Has A Name, a sequel of sorts to Harbor of Hope (MSPIFF 2012), director Magnus Gertten tracks down and interviews survivors from German concentration camps seen in a 35mm archival film reel showing their arrival at the harbour of Malmo, Sweden on April 28, 1945.

The group includes Jews from all over Europe, Norwegian prisoners of war, Polish mothers and children, members of the French resistance, British spies, as well as a young Italian-American accused of being a spy—with personal reactions that are both powerful and moving.

Directed by: Magnus Gertten

All the Time in the World

Concerned with the fundamental disconnect of living in the city, a family of five leaves the comforts of home behind for a remote cabin in the Yukon wilderness camera in tow. Without running water, electricity, phone or even direct road access, Suzanne Crocker, her husband and three children (ages 10, 8 and 4) embark on a nine month experiment. Making do with no crew and limited equipment, Crocker skillfully chronicles her family’s unique personal discovers and turns them into a universal story on life, family, and everyday struggles.

Directed by: Suzanne Crocker

… 


Get your tickets and MSPIFF passes before they sell out!

MSPIFFgraphic

Regular Screenings
General Admission: $12.00
Film Society Members: $10.00
Students w/ID: $6.00

NEW! Beginning this year, tickets can be purchased online at mspfilm.org.

DOWNLOAD THE OFFICIAL GUIDE & FULL SCHEDULE 

 


What do you think folks, does any of these films interest you?

///

The Longest Ride interview with cast member Scott Eastwood & Britt Robertson

FCInterviewBannerTheLongestRidePoster

Last Thursday I had the chance to be part of a roundtable interview with the two cast members of The Longest Ride, the upcoming Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation. Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson visited Minneapolis as part of their press tour around the country. Unfortunately I was unable to see the screening of the film, but here’s the synopsis:

THE LONGEST RIDE centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke (Eastwood), a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.

Trailer:


Thanks ALLIED for co-ordinating the interview roundup in a downtown Minneapolis Hotel. I arrived 10 minutes early and there was still another interview going on in the room. As I was leaning against the wall in the hallway, Scott Eastwood walked by in front of me. I was immediately struck by how much he looked like his dad Clint, but most definitely he’s not 5’11’ as is listed on IMDb. You’ll figure it out from the photo I posted below. Just FYI I’m 5’3″ and I didn’t wear heels at the time.

In any case, both are warm and affable. Britt is especially cordial and sweet, I haven’t seen her in anything yet but I’m a fan now. Both seem to be in good spirits and answered our questions cheerfully. There are about a dozen interviewers in the roundtable. Now, lesson learned – whenever you participate in a roundtable interview, make sure to ask the question you REALLY want the answers to. My second question to Britt was going to be about Tomorrowland and Scott about Suicide Squad, two big-budget movies in a totally different genre than this one.

In any case, my question is marked with an asterisk (*) in front of it.

 Spoiler alert! Be warned that some of the conversation might touch some plot points.

Q: In the movie, there are a lot of scenes with bull riding. I read that you did all the stunts yourself, so I’m curious what encouraged you to do that and what are your thoughts on that experience?

Scott: Well I’ve been a big fan of rodeo actually, since I was a kid. Rodeo is different than PBR [Professional Bull Riders – ed] but I’m a big fan since I’m a kid. Sorry I can’t remember what age I was but I went to the Salinas rodeo and I remember seeing these guys and thinking that they’re bigger than life. So I became a fan of the PBR and one of my best friends has this Buck A Bull and he kept calling and calling and he said, ‘If you don’t buck a bull while you’re doing this, you’ll never hear the end of it from me” [laughs] So…

Britt: Is it just for him?

Scott: No, it wasn’t just for him. I mean y’know, these guys, going to play a bull rider and hanging out with these guys for four months, and having the respect that I had for them that I had, y’know it’s only right that I do it one time if I were going to portray someone who does that stuff.

TheLongestRide_BullridingQ: So how do you feel about it afterwards?

Scott: Well I thought I won’t do it again [laughter fills the whole room] No, I thought it was awesome, it was an adrenaline rush. The video will actually premier in Jimmy Fallon in about a week from now [April 8 – ed]

Q: So when you guys filmed this, what time of year, because it looked kind of hot some of the time? I’m sure it could get quite grueling, especially the material you wore when you’re riding. So do you have any stories as to how hot it was, as I know that North Carolina gets pretty…

Britt: Very, very warm. I mean, I’m used to it as I’m from North Carolina so I’m used to being in the humid, humid heat. But this was in the middle of Summer, y’know, I don’t even know if there are really stories. I can’t complain about it because then I’ll lose my cred…

Scott: The North Carolina cred?

Britt: Yes exactly. So how about you? Did you have any trouble with the weather?

Scott: I like it, I like the heat. I’m a warm weather guy so I liked it.

TheLongestRide_FirstDate

Q: As far as the novel? Has either of you read this book before you did this film? Have you read Nicholas Sparks before?

Britt: I did not read the book before I auditioned. But I read it after I got the part and I have read his previous novels so I’m obviously familiar with his work, and also the movies that are based on his books. I waited until I got the part before indulging.

Scott: I hadn’t read the book but I was a fan of The Notebook so that’s the extent of my knowledge of Nicholas Sparks beyond the fact that he had a lot of successful movies, but each I was a fan of The Notebook.

Q*: Just to tie that to the question… Was there an audition process for you both?

Britt: I had met with one of the producers Marty Bowen two or three months before the shooting n he had given me the script n he thought that I might be right for the part. So I went and audition for the part with director George Tillman Jr. After the audition they told me I had the part but I was still pretty skeptical at that point. Then they brought me in to read with Scott and a few other guys and I got the part.

Q*: Scott, So you auditioned with her then?

Britt: Britt: did you already got the part when you auditioned with me?

Scott: You know, all these auditions blurred together. I honestly don’t remember.

Britt: hmmm, I didn’t realize that I didn’t know that.

LongestRideNovelQ: So you both read the books. I was there [at the screening] last night and I think Scott you might’ve answered this last night. Y’know it’s hard when you read the book, the you read the script and there’s changes. Was there anything in the book that you thought, oh I wish that had been in the movie?

Scott: that’s a great question, we had not been asked that question before. Actually you know what, I ‘m really proud how this movie turned out, extremely proud. And that doesn’t happen all the time. You do movies and sometimes they turned out well, so-so, so you go ‘well we gave that a shot.’ And that happens with great scripts, sometimes they turned to so-so movies, you get that with mediocre script and they turned into great movies. I think I really enjoyed in the book, that when Luke first met Sophia, Nicholas Sparks described it as ‘ a comfortable silence’ that you have with people and I think that happens with people you fall for. There’s something really nice about how she comfortable she felt with his silence, there doesn’t need to be words. And I strongly pushed my opinion about that scene when they first met, but I think some of them end up in the cutting room floor and that’s what happened. We did film a lot more of that opening scene.

Britt: Yeah… funny enough, before seeing the film there were a few things that I was curious to explore. Y’know, there are this stuff about Sophia’s life prior to her family, just where she comes from. I mean, it’s hard to relate to someone without knowing anything about their history. Actually that’s a big point that some people brought up… But now, seeing the movie, I don’t imagine it done any other way. A lot of the ideas that I miss or thought that might be interesting just don’t even work for the movie, I really am happy with the way it came out.

Scott: Some things just don’t work. I mean, I thought that the boyfriend thing…

Britt: Ugh…

Scott: … Now, I think it just doesn’t work at all. I mean, it’s very cliché, in words, what’s in a medium in words can be very different in picture, so we didn’t need that.

TheLongestRide_BrittScott

Q: The movie is a lot about sacrifice in love. I’m curious what you guys think personally about sacrificing your dreams for a relationship. Especially when you’re super young, what you might advise your characters?

Britt: Well, my personal thought about sacrificing for relationship in relation to the film… is that, there’s really nothing that you’re sacrificing in life if you’re choosing to made a decision that you want. I said this a few times, but it’s something that resonates in my life. I think it’s important for young people when they’re watching the film, Sophia made the choice to give up her internship and not be a part of New York like so she can be with Luke. So that’s the decision she wants to make. And that’s her choice. I think people have to look at their life in terms of the big picture and long term, and what matters most. It’s really about priorities, really. You kind of just have to prioritize and see what means the most, and what gonna make you happy. And that’s the choices that you make, based on those priorities.

Scott: I don’t think I can answer that [laughs]

Q: What made you guys choose this project over some other ones you could have been working on at the same time?

Scott: You mean, sorry, previous Nicholas Sparks’ films?

Q: No, just in general. Why you chose this one What made you guys choose this one over some other ones you could have been filming and working on at the same time?

Britt: Well, they chose me and I chose them for… I mean, they chose me, I auditioned for it and I got the part. But more than that, to answer your actual question, is that I’ve always had this nostalgic connection with Nicholas Sparks because it was almost something I was raised on. I mean, my mom loves his books, loves his films, so I’ve always… it’s almost like a bonding experience in the house almost, watching his movies. I think for me, that was a really cool element, for being a part of his movies and being a part of this film. Other than that, I really like the character Sophia. She’s a really strong woman and it’s an interesting story. And I also really love the director, George Tillman Jr. So tons of stuff.

Scott: Yeah, yeah. It’s never really one specific reason, I think it’s a lot reasons. In this case, I was a big fan of the director, George Tillman Jr., and also a fan of The Notebook. I also thought this one in particular has a certain machismo, a certain guy element to it…

Britt: Machismo! [laughs] I like that!

Scott: Machismo… yeah, that I like. It’s something that I like which I haven’t seen in movies in a long time.

On set w/ director  George Tillman Jr.

On set w/ director George Tillman Jr.

Q: A lot of teenagers and high school kids are actually skeptical of Nicholas Sparks’ books and movies, because they’re seen as cheesy or cliché. So in your opinion, why would our age group want to go see this movie or what would draw them in?

Britt: The reason we’re proud of the film is just, because it’s good…

Scott: It’s not cliché

Britt: Yeah, I mean because it’s a good movie. It means more than just the typical y’know, kissing in the rain or like, sex on the beach. Or whatever it is that happens in books or movies that make them cliché. I think it’s a story about love, it’s a story about two people finding their way in life. There are some really interesting relationships and like he [Scott] said, there’s the action aspect of it, which is fun for guys. Or even for women, I mean I got really rowdy during those scenes, just fired up for them. I think it’s an interesting movie to watch and not think about it as a Nicholas Sparks genre.

Q: How did you start out as a teen that help you prepare for your career as an actor?

Britt: Hey, how did you start out? I don’t even know this.

Scott: You mean, how did I start acting?

Britt: Yeah, that was the question right? [gesturing to the person asking the question, to which she nodded]

Scott: I’ve been in plays in high school. I’ve also had been in a videography class throughout high schools where we’d do short films for various programming that we see in high school. There’s a programming for an advanced videography class where you do video shown on Monday morning and stuff. And to be honest, y’know, I grew up around movie sets, so it just sort of, I’ll give it a shot after high school.

Britt: Yeah, same with me. I started with plays, I was in theater in South Carolina and I ended up snagging an agent in L.A. and just started auditioning. Y’know, pretty simple story.

TheLongestRide_Britt_AlanAlda

Britt in a scene with Alan Alda

Q: So what’s your favorite scene to film in this movie?

Scott: I like a lot of the bull riding aspect. We were down in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the bull riding for about a week. So we have a week doing PBR, with all the big trucks, the big lights, and all the bulls, and all the PBR guys. So that was a pretty exciting week. I had fun in that but the whole filming was pretty enjoyable.

Britt: Yeah, I like that the first date scene. That whole location, we shot that first date scene in this one location and also the very last scene of the movie where we took our clothes off and jumped in the lake. Those, I specifically love that location, I thought it was gorgeous, it was so much fun to be there. It was a hot Summer week and jumping in the pond, which was freezing. I don’t know how it could get that cold being so hot, so all that stuff was really fun.

Q: How was your experience working with the rest of the cast?

Britt: Well I didn’t really have a lot of cast to work with other than this guy. There was Melissa [Benoist] who played my sorority sister and Melissa is amazing. I’m actually a huge fan of her work, she was in Whiplash and that’s my favorite movie of this year. Obviously there’s Alan [Alda] was an absolute legend so working with him was a treat. That was an absolute delight.

Q: I know that you [pointing to Scott] said that you enjoyed rodeo when you’re younger, but did you guys have experience riding horses before filming this?

Scott: Yeah, I did. I still ride today. We have a couple of horses just north of L.A. so I go ride whenever I want to go riding. I love riding.

Britt: I didn’t know anything, I mean they gave me lessons but I’m pretty bad on the horses but I had to embrace it.

And that’s a wrap! :D
The interview was only about 15-min long as there’s a photo-op right after. Towards the end of the interview, both Scott and Britt made a comment about the loud noise from music, construction and dog howling. Thankfully they’re such a good sport about the whole thing.


Thanks Britt & Scott for chatting with us!

Scott_Britt_LongestRideInterviewThe Longest Ride in out in theaters this Friday, April 10


Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen The Longest Ride? Well, what did you think?

Rental Pick: John Singleton’s SHAFT (2000)

ShaftBnr

New York City police detective John Shaft (nephew of the original 1970s detective) goes on a personal mission to make sure the son of a real estate tycoon is brought to justice after a racially-motivated murder.

I’ve been curious about this movie for some time but I forgot that it’s available on Netflix streaming. As my hubby and I were in the mood for an action flick, this was a good a time as any to finally check it out. One thing I noticed right away was how young Samuel L. Jackson looked here, though this was made only a decade and a half ago. He’s basically playing the same tough guy character as Nick Fury and a bunch of other action roles – same snarky attitude and that cocky swagger.

It’s interesting to see him go after some rich SOB Walter Wade Jr. played by Christian Bale, the same year he also plays another rich psychopath in American Psycho and 5 years before he plays an even richer guy Bruce Wayne, but at least he uses his privilege for good in those Batman films. He’s quite convincing as some racist bastard, you really wants to punch his smug face every time he’s on screen. But he’s actually not the most memorable villain in this flick, that’d be Jeffrey Wright who plays a ghetto drug kingpin Peoples Hernandez. It’s amusing to see an African American actor playing a Hispanic man, he’s definitely the movie’s scene stealer here.

The rest of the supporting cast was pretty good. Toni Collette is quite memorable here too as the witness Shaft’s trying to convince to testify and rapper Busta Rhymes provides comic relief as Shaft’s frantic driver. I haven’t seen the original Shaft films, but I’m familiar with Richard Roundtree who had a supporting role as Shaft’s uncle. I also like the fact that they didn’t make the beautiful Vanessa Williams to be just the eye candy factor or damsel in distress, in fact she actually saved Shaft in one key scene.

ShaftMovie

The movie itself was pretty entertaining – good pacing, interesting characters and dynamic action scenes. Yet it wasn’t just all about car chases and shootouts, as the story was pretty involving but not overly complicated. John Singleton definitely had style and some of the camera work was pretty cool to watch. It’s also quite violent and there are as many F-bombs flying out as there are bullets, I read on IMDb that there were F-word was used 165 times in this movie, wow! At least the violence wasn’t too gratuitous. The finale also still manages to surprise me, and I remember not having recovered yet from the tense scene between Shaft and Hernandez. Not a bad rental and I’m glad I finally saw this one. I’m actually surprised there isn’t a sequel to this, I’d think that it might’ve been a hit back then.

3halfReels


Have you seen SHAFT? Well, what did you think?

10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II

AFistfulOfMomentsI LOVE Andrew of A Fistful of Films’s blogathon idea so much that I invited my pal Kevin G. aka Jack Deth to join in on the fun!

jackdethbanner

Greetings all and sundry!

Having been given an oblique invitation to participate in such an intriguing concept days ago from our hostess, Ruth. I would be remiss if I did not open long ago forgotten vault doors and peer within. Searching for that moment that make a film’s tale complete. Its raison d’etre. Establishing or unearthing a character. Or the adventure’s well hidden “McGuffin” before shocked and suddenly interested eyes.

To that end. Please allow me a few moments to rummage around. Make a few discoveries and bring those to well deserved attention an light with…

A Fistful Of Moments Blogathon!

Having chosen the nice round number or ten. My choices will be in increasing range, strength power, or “Throw Weight”, From least to most powerful or memorable.

#10 – Opening Sequence. Strangers On A Train (1951)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Classic Hitchcock being Htchcock. Playfully setting up the audience with the juxtapositions of randomness, perhaps fate. And opposites attracting. As depicted so well with Robert Walker and his Bruno Anthony’s rather snazzy, foppish, two toned Fleur di Lis wingtip shoes. With what could also be built up heels. Opposite Farley Granger and his, we imagine; tennis playing Guy Haines’ less well cared for and comfortable brown Broughams.

Creating a mysterious opening gambit in what will prove to be less than “a beautiful friendship,”!

#9 – Kilvinsky’s Law. The New Centurions (1972)

Director: Richard Fleischer

This scene sets up “Grand Old Man”, George C. Scott’s twenty year Uniform Patrolman Kilvinsky to a T. And offers sound advice with his wise words regarding Police intervention and “interfacing” with the public. Words leaned through hard knocks and the disadvantage shared by those whose trade is inserting themselves where they are often needed, but rarely wanted.

Especially when offered against Stacy Keach’s fresh from the Academy, rookie Roy Fehler. Who may not be ready for the reality of the street.

#8 – “Fire One!” The Bedford Incident (1965)

Director: James B. Harris

This is why bright and shiny new, scared to death of Captain graduates of the Naval Academy (James MacArthur. ‘Hawaii Five-O’) should never be allowed on a ship’s bridge. Let alone shiny, large numbered buttons!

Sub hunting is a specialized art and filled with volumes of unwritten rules both sides obey. Which is why each ASW ship has a Russian speaker to signal intentions. Verbally coax the enemy sub to the surface. And keep “Incidents” like this from ever happening.

Though, those rules are thrown away by Captain Finlander (Richard Widmark) in quest of recognition and perhaps, promotion in bringing another sub to the surface within Territorial Waters. Creating a cautionary tale from one of Stanley Kubrick’s more notable alums.

#7 -“Sherry Baby!” The Killing (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

This is the scene where languorous, conniving Femme Fatale Sherry Peatty starts to see and gently apply pressure to the hairline cracks in her husband, George and his four “friends” plan to make a lot of money. Quickly! While allowing “The Grand Master of Sapdom” (Elisha Cook Jr.) to quietly, uncertainly flounder about and do what he does best!

A great piece of subtle cinema in a tale that is all too familiar with violence and irony.

#6 -“Little Birds”: Black Hawk Down (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott

This is what happens when Army Rangers have to clean up a previous controversial U.N. rocket attack and mess. And those Rangers are denied the use of AC-130 “Specter” gunships, Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles already in country and ready to respond. By then Under Secretary of State, Morton Halperin. For fear of “upsetting the locals”.

A powerful scene that brutally depicts the awesome marriage of firepower with modern technology!

#5 – “This Chess Thing”: Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)

Director: Steven Zallian

This scene pulls the film’s tale together relatively early on. For Joe Mantegna’s sports writer, Fred Waitzken was originally skeptical of his young son, Josh’s talents. Though, with watching Josh play against all comers and making strong “Father & Son” time with out off state tournaments. Mr. Mantegan’s Fred is righteously entitle to “Go Full Mamet” on the unsuspecting teacher, Laura Linney!

#4 – Tango: Scent Of A Woman (1992)

Director: Martin Brest

This scene proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Al Pacino’s Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade is the smoothest, coolest man in any room! While also showing Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) the patient ease in gaining trust and winning people over by opening up senses to surroundings and beyond. Not an easy task for the uninitiated.

It’s interesting watching Donna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) apprehensions at first on the dance floor smooth out as the Tango ends.And her facial responses to Michael (David Lansbury) proving himself to be a rude and utter jerk. And that Donna may not be the best chooser of men, after all.

#3 – “Duty”: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

A neat little scene that delivers glances at the cast’s characters. With the discussion being held in almost a classroom manner. Are there better, more action and suspense filled scenes? Certainly. But, this one works for me in character introduction. Defining the mission and setting up the next series of scenes!

#2 My Post. My Call. A Tie With Orson Welles!

#2B -Opening Sequence. Touch of Evil (1958)

Director: Orson Welles

Still one of the best tracking shots in cinema! Made even better by the removal of title, credit and cast throughout.Also one of the most efficient uses of “Making the fist scene the most interesting” and in this case, telling. Serious Skullduggery is afoot with the placement of the bomb in couple’s convertible. With the next obvious questions being, “Who placed it?” and “Why?”

An exceptional three and three quarters minutes of film. That should have gone another half minute longer to introduce Orson Welles’ corpulent, crooked Police Captain Hank Quinlan.

#2A -Harry Lime’s Entrance. The Third Man (1949)

Director: Carol Reed

Quite possibly, the best, most clever and efficient entrance in film. With only a pair of shoes peeking beneath deep alcove shadows and betrayed by Harry’s Calico cat. And even more with the echo of retreating, running footsteps. But, it is those few seconds when we see Harry’s face and smile where a very large piece of the puzzle of Harry Lime is revealed in a stream of light!

#1 Minnesota Fats. The Hustler (1961)

10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II http://wp.me/pxXPC-9C7  Thanks to my loyal contributor Kevin aka Jack Deth! @fististhoughts

There’s a reason why I chose this film long ago as my first guest post and critique for Ruth and this site. And this clip, though brief lays out Paul Newman and his “Fast Eddie” Felson’s immediate future in no uncertain terms. There’s no disagreement that Jackie Gleason, rarely known for drama delivers with amazing calm and confidence as “Minnesota Fats” as he sees shots invisible to others as he waltzes around the pool table!

JackDeth_post


Check out Ted & my Top 20 Perfect Cinematic Moments


Agree? Disagree? Have A Personal Choice? The Floor Is Open For Discussion! 

FlixChatter Review: Furious 7

Furious7 “I don’t have friends, I got family”

That line by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the patriarch of the ‘Fast & Furious’ family, sums up the familial theme that runs through this franchise. I never would’ve thought that when I was still blissfully ignorant of the series prior to Fast & Furious 6. So far I’ve only seen the 1st, 5th and 6th movie before the latest one, and based on what I heard from those who’ve seen them all, this is one of those rare occasion where the sequels actually improve over the earlier movies. Yes, the franchise pride itself in being a big dumb action flick with preposterous car stunts, but the familial theme separates it from other action movies, and that could very well be the secret of its success.

Furious7_HanFuneralThere’s a direct continuation from this movie to Fast & Furious 6, as the comatose villain’s brother, Deckard Shaw, now seeks revenge against Toretto & his family. The beginning of the film shows them attending a funeral of a former family member that’s hinted at the end of the previous film. Even the villain is avenging a member of the family. I thought that the casting is pretty spot on as not only Jason Statham looks believable as Luke Evans‘ older brother, the fact that he’s famous in another car-centric actioner The Transporter makes his casting even more perfect.

Statham is always effortlessly bad ass and invincible in pretty much everything he’s in, and it’s no different here. He apparently could take out an entire hospital AND all those SWAT team all by himself. So he’s special ops or something, which means in his case he’s got superhuman strength who could withstand blow after blow from someone three times his size! The fight scene between him and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is practically hilarious – as is most of the fight scenes in this franchise – because I just don’t sense any kind of real danger to them.

Furious7_TheRockJasonStathamThe vengeance storyline is mixed with a heist plot to obtain a tracking device named God’s Eye and rescuing a hacker named Ramsey. Just like the Mission Impossible movies, the filmmaker just wants to one-up the previous movie in terms of its preposterous action. The sequence of the cars dropped from a plane down to Caucasus Mountains, followed by an equally ridiculous car/bus chase around the twisty mountain road is what you pay money to see this franchise! Seeing that scene on IMAX is really quite a thrill, it’s as close to being in a real amusement park ride given the immersive experience of seeing the stunts in such a huge screen.

Furious7_CarAirdropStuntman Spiro Razatos is really the unsung hero in this franchise as he’s the man responsible for some of the heart-stopping sequences, such as the bank vault scene in Fast Five. This article offer details as to how he pulls off the airdropD scene, it’s really his magnum opus of stunt work! To contrast the cool mountain scenery, the team then heads to the desert of Abu Dhabi. Of course the *mission* has to be something totally absurd. The owner of the flash drive they’re after placed the thing inside a $3.4 mil supercar that I’ve never even heard of: Lykan Hypersport made in Dubai by the first ever Arab supercar company W Motors.

Furious7_LykanHypersport

Yep, that’s the red car that Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) drove through two skyscrapers you’ve seen in the trailer. Trust me, the scene itself is even crazier than in the trailer! Brian Tyler‘s dynamic score perfectly complements the action scenes.

LykanHypersportNow, I’ve mentioned some of the best action sequences, but there are also some pointless fight scenes that overstay its welcome. One of them that come to mind is the fight between UFC champ Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez, it’s there simply just to fulfill audience’s expectation of a two bad-ass girls knocking each other out. Some of the fight scenes between Walker and Thai martial artist Tony Jaa also gets boring after a while. Pointless characters also drag the movie down, such as Kurt Russell‘s character and Djimon Hounsou’s who’s been typecast as a useless henchman in practically everything he’s in since his fine turn in Gladiator.

I do have to give props to how the filmmaker handle the tribute to Paul Walker, who’s a key cast member of the franchise. I knew before watching this movie that they weren’t going to kill off his character Brian O’Conner, which I think is a wise move on their part. What they end up doing is genuinely moving and heartfelt that it made me tear up watching it. It’s more of a celebration for the late actor than a somber farewell, incorporating the use of CGI as well as the actor’s own brothers Caleb and Cody as stand-ins.

Furious7_PaulWalkerOverall the movie is entertaining and fun, which is what one would hope for in a movie like this. The emotional scenes help elevate it a bit, but for the most part, you go see this movie for the ridiculous car stunts. But the ethnic diversity has also become part of the ‘brand’ of the franchise. It’s nice to see actors of pretty much every race represented: Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, and there’s even a Bollywood actor making a cameo this time around. Even the director James Wan is of Malaysian Chinese descent. Wan is new to the franchise, after doing mostly horror films like The Conjuring. I think his direction is ok, though I think I prefer Justin Lin‘s direction in the last two movies a bit more. In any case, the diversity pays off for the franchise, as according to THR, 75% of the audience in North America is non-White and it’s earned $384 mil worldwide in its first weekend, wow!

The movie is quite long though, I think cutting some of those unnecessary action scenes out would reduce the overlong 137-min running time. But it’s still mostly enjoyable to me because it’s more of a heist flick than a street-racing movie.

3halfReels


Have you seen Furious 7? Well, what did YOU think?