5 Fave Roger Moore Bond Scenes – You will be missed Sir Roger!

I was saddened to learn on Tuesday May 23 that Sir Roger Moore has passed away in Switzerland after losing a battle with cancer at the age of 89. He’s the first 007 actor who’s left us 😦

I hadn’t heard much about him in the past few years, though I remember reading last year that he was open to doing a cameo in a Bond movie and I thought, how brilliant that would be! He’s got such an effortless charm and elegance about him, and this cheeky wit that would make anyone smile even if his (and Sean Connery’s) Bond is the quintessential ‘sexist, misogynist dinosaur‘ that Dame Judi’s M perfectly described in Goldeneye.

I grew up watching Roger Moore Bond movies which I admittedly enjoyed more than Connery versions when I saw them back in high school with my twin brothers. It was practically the only movie franchise my whole family enjoyed together. Moore isn’t my favorite Bond (that would be Timothy Dalton), but his Bond movies are a ton of fun so he will always have a special place in my heart. I mean, nobody could deliver such cheeky lines the way Sir Roger did, he might not have been a convincing killer spy like Daniel Craig but he sure had a killer smile!

Now, a lot of my fave Moore’s Bond scenes seem to involve vehicle chases. And really why not? Bond is all about gadgets, ladies and cool rides and crazy chases right?

So here are five of my favorite Roger Moore Bond moments where he’s never out-shone by even his craziest rides…

I hated the idiotic invisible car in Die Another Day but this Submarine car was brilliant! The thing w/ Moore’s Bond action movies is I never felt like there’s ever any real danger to him or his Bond girl, so it was really in the spirit of fun. I love his cheeky expression as he dropped the fish out of the window when the car went up shore, ha!

Who doesn’t love the Gondola scene!! It’s the most absurd, ridiculous scene ever but never fails to make me laugh. Again, Moore’s smug expression as he rode that Gondola through San Marco, as everyone’s jaws dropped to the floor, is the most brilliant part about it.

For Your Eyes Only is perhaps my fave Moore’s Bond flicks. I must’ve watched it over a dozen times growing up and THIS Citroen scene is undoubtedly one of my all time fave Bond car chases. My mom and two brothers actually rented a Citroen in Bali once and that thing is really a piece of sh*t, ahah. The idea of Bond riding this yellow rinky dink of a car when his Lotus blew up, riding down a Greek country side with a stunningly beautiful Bond girl as henchmen in Peugeots are hot on their tail… it’s an absolute classic! “Love a drive in the country, don’t you?” Only Sir Roger could deliver it so perfectly!

There have been quite a few ski chases in Bond movies but this one in an Italian Alps is such a joy to watch!! Moore’s cheeky charm is perfectly on display in the Bobsled scene. Man it must’ve been quite a stunt to film this entire sequence, and you could tell in many long shots it’s definitely NOT Roger Moore on the skis, ahah.

Another fun chase involving an exotic ride… this time it’s Tuk Tuk, the famous auto rickshaw in India (we call it Bajaj in Indonesia and they’re mostly dark orange instead of black).

Oh man, my brothers and I had such a blast watching this!! Only Bond would make Bajaj looks cool, ahah. I also love Bond’s Indian ally Vijay (played by professional tennis player Vijay Amritraj, hence he hit one of the henchmen with a tennis racket!) who could match Moore’s charm. That’s another stunt that must’ve taken months to prepare, but the result is another classic Bond scene that fans can appreciate for years to come.


You will be sorely missed Sir Roger. 

So what’s YOUR favorite Roger Moore Bond moments?

Guest Review: Everything, Everything (2017)

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Directed By: Stella Meghie
Written By: J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay) based on a book by Nicola Yoon
Runtime: 1 hr 36 minutes

I went into Everything, Everything with somewhat low expectations. There are very few romance movies that I enjoy, and one based off a young adult novel seemed even less appealing. The trailers looked cheesy and predictable, and I was prepared to roll my eyes for an hour and a half. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Everything, Everything tells the story of Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg), an eighteen-year-old who has been unable to leave her house her entire life due to an extreme immunodeficiency. The only human interaction she has is with her mother (and doctor) Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera), and Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo)- until a new family moves in next door, including a boy named Olly (Nick Robinson). Olly and Maddy’s friendship, first through glances through their windows and texting, then secret meetings arranged by Carla, soon develops into a romance that has Maddy questioning whether some risks are worth taking.

Easily the best part about this movie is Amandla Stenberg. Her performance is moving, subtle, and relatable, and while the rest of the cast is great as well, she is the stand-out actor. She’s an incredibly talented young actress, and I’m hoping this movie opens the door to more leading roles in the future. Anika Noni Rose as Pauline does an excellent job as well, despite not getting nearly enough screen time considering her character’s importance. She strikes a good balance between loving warmth and clinical bluntness.

In addition to the strong acting, this movie is visually stunning, which is impressive considering the majority of it takes place inside one house. It’s beautifully shot and lit, and there are some really creative moments- specifically, turning Maddy and Olly’s texting conversations into imagined face-to-face conversations inside the models Maddy’s built for an architecture class she’s taking. All of this is topped off by a phenomenal soundtrack that fits the tone of the film so perfectly.

All of that said, I did have some issues with this movie. As talented as the romantic leads are individually, their chemistry feels kind of lukewarm. I was also a little annoyed that they don’t spend much time exploring Maddy’s feelings on being homebound her whole life before meeting Olly. I’m not saying their romance acting as a catalyst for her to take action is a problem, but the idea that an eighteen-year-old woman in these circumstances wouldn’t question certain things is pretty unbelievable. Maybe she does in the book, but she doesn’t in the movie, and it would have helped develop her character if she had.

My biggest problem with this movie, however, is the ending. I won’t spoil it, but I will say it’s predictable (at least, I think it is; it was exactly what I expected after seeing the trailer), and it’s so disappointing, because as soon as you start thinking about the details behind it, it’s really convoluted. Again, maybe it’s handled better in the book, but even within the time constraints of an hour and a half long film, it could have been handled better.

Still, I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected to, and I plan on checking out the book soon. If you like young adult fiction and romance, this movie is for you. Even if you don’t, you’ll still appreciate the talented cast, the gorgeous cinematography, and the fantastic music.

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Have you seen ‘Everything, Everything’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – ALIEN: Covenant (2017)

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When Ridley Scott announced that he’s going back to the Alien franchise again 5 years ago, many fans were very excited. Even though he didn’t say it at the time, 2012’s Prometheus was a prequel to his original Alien film. There were quite a lot of excitement for Scott’s first sci-fi picture in many years but when Prometheus finally opened, it was met with mixed reviews, modest box office results and divided many fans of the franchise. Now instead of trying to say the new film isn’t related to the Alien world, Scott decided to go full Alien mode in this new sequel.

It’s a decade after the events of the previous film, a new crew in a spaceship full of colonists are heading to a distant planet to find a new home for humans and preserve our race. While all the human crew members were in hyper sleep, a cyborg named Walter (Michael Fassbender) had to wake them all up because the ship ran into some troubles. Unfortunately, the ship’s captain was killed during the commotion and his second in command named Oram (Billy Crudup) must man up and be the leader of the crew.

We get the sense that the crew don’t have much respect for Oram and he certainly doesn’t have respect of the captain’s wife named Daniels (Katherine Waterston). While trying to fix the ship, the crew received a signal from near by planet and Oram decided to investigate. Daniels opposed his decision, she believes they should head to their original destination but Oram believes this new planet could be their new home because it has the same atmosphere as earth. Of course when the crew landed on this new planet, they were met with menace and many won’t survive.

As far as story goes, this sequel didn’t really offer anything new. I thought the script by John Logan and Dante Harper didn’t really do a good job of creating these new characters, with exception of Fassbender’s David/Walter, we didn’t really know much about any of the characters. Oram and Daniels are very interesting individuals but they weren’t given much to do. When Daniels was thrust into the hero mode, to me it just felt off because she really didn’t have much to do in the first half of the film. Maybe an earlier draft of the script may have fleshed out these characters much better, but the shooting script didn’t do a good job of it.

Since he got top billing, Fassbender was the main star of the film and he excels here in a duo role. Walter is new cyborg who wants to protect the crew while David has evolved into something more menacing. Waterston’s Daniels is supposed to be the new Ripley but her character was so underwritten that I don’t really care for her. The same could be said for other characters in the film. In fact, I thought it’s kind of weird seeing Danny McBride in a non-comedic role. Not sure what the casting director was thinking when they cast him.

This is Scott’s third time doing an Alien picture so from technical stand point, it’s flawless. Although, some of the CGI aliens looked way too fake. I thought some of the alien creatures from the original film looked much scarier than in this film. Scott staged some cool frantic action sequences and didn’t backdown on the gore. He said he wanted to scare people in this new film, I don’t think he achieved that but I appreciated his effort. Scott also wanted to give some sort of shout outs to the previous films in the franchise, fans will recognize similar sequences from Cameron’s Aliens and Fincher’s Alien 3.

Despite its underdeveloped characters, I still thought it’s an entertaining picture. I wanted to see something new for a sixth film in the franchise but what we got here is just another summer spectacle that feels like it’s been there done that. It looks great and I’m sure fans of the franchise will be entertained by it.

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So have you seen Alien: Covenant? Well, what did you think?

Guest Review: The Promise (2017)

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Directed By: Terry George
Written By: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 minutes

It has taken more than ten years for Terry George to return from Hotel Rwanda with another sweeping historical narrative – again about genocide. The Promise is a sobering, beautiful disappointment. The film has a beautiful score and decent cinematography, but is hindered by two competing and uncomplimentary story-lines, flawed casting, and lackluster performances by usually gifted actors.
One thing that The Promise does right is its dogged determination – at least in the beginning – to accurately recreate the Ottoman Empire at its peak. The diversity of the Ottoman Empire is highlighted in the script and on the screen: crowded streets and classrooms alike brim with a rainbow of skin colors and a wide variety of clothing styles. This attention to detail falls to the wayside later on: extras become less and less Armenian with every passing scene, leaving me wondering if the casting department doubts an audience’s ability to see facial features through dirt.

That initial pursuit of realistic cultural immersion was also highlighted in moments like the one when our stars leave a stuffy party full of people in European clothing to hit up the nearby belly dancing club where they drink absinthe, sugar cube ritual and all. The effort to establish the Ottoman Empire as a progressive, inclusive, educated, and wealthy place is palpable.

Unfortunately, The Promise falls short constantly. The focus of the film is what can only be described as a love square: one man is betrothed to a woman but he falls in love with a different woman who is already romantically involved with another man, but she also falls in love with that first man. On its own, this might be a decent movie, but this love square has been placed in the foreground of a genocide. The result is a bad love story (because the backdrop is too dark) and a bad historical drama (because the love story is more carefully developed than the history).
The flashes of the Armenian Genocide that we get are stark: labor camps, cattle trains full of people, violent killings, riots, executions, people on the run and trying to hide. They deserve a telling that does not hide them behind a petty romantic squabble. This is a story that is more than 100 years old and is still illegal to tell in Turkey. 1.5 million people were killed in five years. That story can be told without a love story.

Casting was poor. Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but why a man who is nearly 40 years old is playing a medical student who is betrothed to be married in two years is completely beyond me. He also does not look particularly Armenian. Neither does Charlotte Le Bon, who plays his romantic interest. Angela Sarafyan who, is both a phenomenal actress and an Armenian was cast in a lesser role. I would have liked to see her as the leading actress and a younger, more Armenian man in the place of Isaac.

I get the feeling that this set was not especially actor friendly, which is evident in a lot of lackluster performances. Christian Bale’s character (which should not exist, but that’s a rant about American centrism that we can save for another day) had many a stale outburst. Marwan Kenzari gave a consistently mediocre performance. Charlotte Le Bon seemed out of place in the 20th Century.

It is unfortunate that The Promise fails in its execution because the film explores many prescient themes:

In what ways might people respond to an atrocity? What compromises of our own character might we make when put in a difficult situation? How do we know what side of a story is the true one, both journalistically and personally? What sacrifices might we make for the sake of our families and our friends?

I can only hope that we’ll get the opportunity to explore those questions in a different movie. With any luck, it will be about the Armenian Genocide, because clearly we still haven’t found it in ourselves to tell that story in the way it deserves to be told.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times.  You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘The Promise’? Well, what did you think? 

Mini Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 & Colossal

Hello there folks! It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote my last review, but it’s actually just a week ago. Well, I saw two Charlie Hunnam films in two weeks… The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I really enjoyed both, the latter is enjoyable though probably not your thing if you don’t like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. I’ve liked the rugged Brit for some time but I’m really quite taken with him now, uh-oh. It’s not like I have time for a new crush now though, ahah, but I sure want to see more of the bloke 😉

So here’s my review of the last two recent movies I saw:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Ok so I have to admit the release of this one sneaked up on me. If it didn’t show up on the weekly press screening list I wouldn’t have known it’s coming out. I was one of the few people who think the first one was just okay, not spectacular. I did rewatch it months later and found it to be entertaining, but nothing that warrant a sequel. But hey it’s Marvel, of course there’ll be a sequel if it hits $100mil.

Well the team is back in full psychedelic color and fun retro 80s music. This time the main plot is basically to unravel the mystery of the protagonist Peter Quill’s true parentage. It might’ve been better to release this in June around Father’s Day, not that there’s anything particularly profound about the father/son bit though. It’s tough to care for their relationship when it’s so thinly written, I didn’t even particularly care for Kurt Russell‘s casting.

Just like the original, the best part of the movie is the team spirit and all the bantering between the supporting characters. I still find Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista) the funniest characters, and I’m glad they seem to beef up their roles a bit more here. I’m getting a bit tired of Baby Groot, there I said it. Yes it’s cute at first but after a while it’s just meh. I also don’t find Chris Pratt all that charming anymore, or maybe I still haven’t recovered from how awful Passengers was). There’s also more focus on the sister rivalry between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) that’s not particularly interesting. The only parts I did find quite moving is the plot involving Yondu (Michael Rooker). Oh, they also added a new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and her banter with Drax is quite amusing.

I feel like the novelty factor of the first movie quickly wears off. What seemed to work in the original just seems recycled this time around. Even the retro music sounds kinda meh to me. Director James Gunn & co. seem to put more effort in having a visual spectacle than an engaging story, but then again that’s kind of what I expected from this sequel. Overall, it was entertaining for two hours but nothing sticks in my mind and definitely not something I’m keen on seeing again.


Colossal (2016)

I saw the trailer on Friday night and immediately decided to see it the next day. I decided I didn’t want to know anything about it other than the trailer, and y’know what, it’s refreshing to go see a movie rather ‘blindly’ like that.

The concept for Colossal is pretty bizarre and it’s definitely ripe for some comedy gold, but I find it to be a pretty engaging drama as well. The story centers on Gloria (Anna Hathaway),  an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NYC when her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicked her out. So she moved back home to her parents’ abandoned house, while at the same time a giant creature came out of nowhere destroying Seoul.

In the trailer it’s made clear that there is Gloria is somehow bizarrely connected to this phenomenon, and when it’s revealed how, it’s really quite hilarious! I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should go into this movie knowing as little as possible, but there’s an interesting message about friendship and taking responsibilities for one’s action.

It’s kind of a coming-of-age moment for Gloria, and her character evolution is quite believable.  I have to admit I’m not Hathaway’s biggest fan but she is quite effective and relatable here, which makes me root for Gloria despite her obvious flaws. I also like Jason Sudekis as Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar, who’s more than just a comic relief in the movie. However I feel like his character is oddly written, it’s as if the revelation to his true self seemed to come out of left field. But at least his character has an arc whilst Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell as Oscar’s friends barely registered.

Overall I enjoyed Colossal immensely. It was amusing with some thoroughly enjoyable moments. I haven’t seen anything by Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo before, but I applaud his originality and wit, even if the execution isn’t perfect. The movie is so absurd at times but therein lies the charm. It reminded me of Safety Not Guaranteed, which I also saw on a whim a few years ago, with a bit of Pacific Rim thrown in.

I highly recommend this one if you’re in the mood for something out of the box.


Well, have you seen either one of these? What did YOU think?

Guest Review: CHRISTINE (2016)

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Written/Directed By: Antonio Campos
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Tracy Letts, J. Smith-Cameron, Michael C. Hall
Runtime: 1 hr 59 minutes

Depression and suicide do not make pretty subjects for a film. It is easy to produce a voyeuristic essay that exploits someone’s despair and self-destruction, but portraying tragedy without sensationalising or trivialising it is as tough as it gets for directors and actors. While most suicides are silent and private, TV journalist Christine Chubbuck chose the most public stage available when in July 1974 she shot herself in the head, live and on-camera. Christine (2016) is her story.

At 29 years of age, anxiety-ridden over a career that stalled, still a virgin and living with her mum, Christine (Rebecca Hall) faces a daily struggle with herself and everyone around her. She is a serious journalist who believes her main role is to tell the truth about important issues but she is also a very difficult person to be near. Hyper self-critical, she needs constant stroking and clashes frequently with her TV station boss who is under pressure to improve ratings. He wants sensationalist coverage of human interest stories, so she is side-lined while others get the breaks. She has long had a crush on another announcer, but he is wary of getting involved with someone so intense. When she finds out he is dating someone it adds another layer of despair; her divorcee mother brings home a date and it feels as if life could not rub enough salt into her wounds.

The tension across this story rises incrementally, with each episode triggering another outburst but not serious enough to push her over the edge. While the episodes subside they do not disperse, and their cumulative effect is to store increasingly volatile fuel that slowly approaches flashpoint. The storytelling imparts a sense of us intimately knowing Christine, seeing what she is going through, feeling her waves of emotion and knowing that she cannot take much more of this. Whether its empathy, curiosity or voyeurism, there is no mistaking our proximity to her when, in the film’s closing moments, she looks straight down the camera lens and says “bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and living colour, you are going to see another first”, and then shoots herself.

This film is not for viewers who are looking for action-based drama. It offers little of that, but loads of dialogue and characterisation. Rebecca Hall is brilliant as Christine, tip-toeing the fine line between appearance of normality and deep despair. It is extraordinary that in her final minutes we can almost feel what it is like to have no hope and see no other way out. This is one of the most high-voltage female lead performances of the year, and begs the question why Christine (2016) was overlooked at the Academy Awards.

Everything in this film leads inexorably towards what we know is going to happen. One effect of this is that we readily interpret all that we see as causally linked symptoms of acute depression. It would be easy to say that now, more than four decades later, this could not happen again because we know so much more about the causes and treatment of this debilitating condition. But of course, this is not true; and that is why this is such an important film.

cinemuseRichard Alaba, PhD
CineMuse Films
Member, Australian Film Critics Association
Sydney, Australia


Have you seen ‘CHRISTINE’? Well, what did you think? 

TCFF Insider Series: BETTA FISH script reading & Interview w/ screenwriter Joshua Barsness

Next Tuesday, TCFF is hosting a screenplay reading BETTA FISH written by Josh Barsness, as part of its Insider Series events. This informal reading serves as a kick-off event for the Minnesota film project of the feature length script, it will be performed by a group of professional actors.

When TCFF Managing Director Bill Cooper asked me to interview Joshua, I jumped at the chance! The fact that I just had a reading of my first script back in January, it’s always good to chat with fellow screenwriters and get insights on their own creative journey. 

Synopsis:

Betta Fish is a story that revolves around Danny Bishop, a mischievous, manipulative gambler who is known to be a prodigy con artist. Fresh out of prison and in trouble due to a large debt to Alex, a beautiful, elegant, malicious mob boss queen of the city. Motivated by the pain of her enemies and the destruction of Danny, she swears to kill him and his family if he does not pay his debt, putting Danny on a collision course with old friends and rivals to succeed. This socially progressive story involves a mixture of race and diverse communities, centering on family and the right to equality.

This event will take place:
St. Paul Athletic Club
Butler’s Bar and Cafe (Second Floor)
340 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MN 55101

The event is free and open to the public and will conclude with a short Q&A session with the screenwriter and cast.

How long have you been involved in the film community, specifically as an actor and screenwriter?

It feels like forever, but as an actor five years. As a screenwriter about two years.

How did you come up w/ the idea for the story? Does it have a personal bent on it, what was the inspiration behind it?

I was in between jobs didn’t have much going for me as an actor always was one step away I looked in the mirror and told myself it’s time to do something about it. I sat down at my computer then it hit me like a lightning bolt. The story needed to be socially current but have something to say and give the audience something they haven’t had before. I noticed many issues in contemporary cinema a major one being women do get their fair share. They may get parts but there not good. Writers in Hollywood are incompetent at writing quality parts for women. So due to that I wrote a very exciting and provocative role specifically for a women more importantly a women in charge.

The other inspiration was a lack of character-driven films however it is getting better Moonlight was wonderful. The other driving force was, I’m inspired by other actor, producer, writers like Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, and Denzel Washington. To be in there league would be a great achievement something that always keeps me up at night is pondering whether I will be.

What’s the significance of the name Betta Fish?

The title Betta Fish was inspired by a film called Rumble Fish directed by Francis Ford Coppola based on the book by S.E Hinton. The story revolves around two brothers one of which walks in the others shadow. Furthermore, I used this as an inspiration to draw from for the dynamic between Arthur Bishop and his younger brother Danny Bishop who is the black sheep of the family. In addition, Betta fish fight to the death there can only be one in the same fish tank. This is the main draw of the story. The film will circle around Alex and Danny as they collide against each other in the criminal underworld resulting in a power struggle. Betta fish fight to the death there can only be one. They city they occupy and control serves as their fish tank that theme was inspired by a film called Heat directed by Michael Mann. Essentially he used the city as a third character that helped establish the battle ground and frontier for the protagonist and antagonist to duel over.

You said in the video that this is a socially progressive story that involves people of color, etc. What specifically is the message you would like people to get from your film?

Your film is better off drawing power from diversity then not. Whitewashing in Hollywood is an issue that we are tackling head on it’s the only way. The message is simple our film is flipping things on their head to make things right. Our film celebrates social change and diversity not necessarily to be rebellious but because it’s the right thing to do. And sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing, but I have no fear.

What are your plans in regards to the film, are you planning on having it shot here locally or somewhere else in the US?

I would love to shoot in the Twin Cities that’s the goal! There’s plenty of untapped beautiful locations here that I have in mind. However, it is possible we shoot somewhere else.

Since your film deals with gambling, what are some of films about gambling or game-playing for money that have inspired you?

The Hustler starring Paul Newman no questions asked. One of the characters in the film Danny Bishop is based off of Paul Newman’s character “Fast Eddie Felson” from the film. Both characters share the same theme that their natural raw talent at times is simultaneously their weakness which is something as humans we struggle with but rarely ever identify with. As far as the climax is concerned it’s purely inspired by the film The Cincinnati Kid starring the King Of Cool Steve McQueen. It’s an excellent film that introduces the two opposing forces and builds to a terrific climax for the final card game and is executed perfectly shot by shot.

In one sentence, what would you say to people to convince them to come to the reading as well as support your film?

If you want to be part of a cause that will bring people together then attend our reading and please support our film.

Thanks Joshua for talking to me about the creative journey of Betta Fish


MSPIFF Double Documentary Reviews: Chavela and Untouchable (2017)

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CHAVELA

Directed By: Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi
Runtime: 1 hour 30 minutes

Like most 20-something-year-old Midwesterners, I had never heard of Chavela Vargas. I might have heard some of her music in college, but I didn’t know her name-or her incredible history-until I saw Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi’s documentary chronicling her unconventional musical career, heartbreaking personal experiences, and massive impact on Mexico’s LGBT community.

Chavela tells the story of Chavela Vargas, a Costa Rican-born Mexican ranchera singer who gained popularity in the 50’s and 60’s, then disappeared into obscurity until the her career was revived in the early 90’s. Through a collection of interviews of individuals who knew her, as well as an interview of Chavela herself, we learn of her life-her lonely childhood with her loveless parents, per move to Mexico to pursue a music career, her struggle to find mainstream success due to her masculine style and being a known lesbian, despite not publicly labeling herself as such until her later years, her nearly crippling alcoholism, and her comeback in the 90’s that led to a huge, 2-decade-long success until her death in 2012.

I obviously can’t discuss this film without first discussing Chavela’s music, which acts as the perfect soundtrack to the story of her life, because it is so genuinely emotional. Every note in her strong, smoky voice carries a passion that you don’t realize is absent in other artists until you hear the real thing. It’s integrated so well into the movie too- each song, with its lyrics subtitled in English in a script-like font over concert clips and snapshots, introduce the different parts of Chavela’s life. It’s a beautiful and creative way of incorporating her music into the storytelling instead of just playing it in the background.

My only critique of this documentary is that, while for the most part it is very well-organized, it occasionally introduces a topic or piece of information in a seemingly unrelated spot, which can be a little jarring in an otherwise smooth narration. I understand there’s only so much they can fit into an hour and a half-long film, but that doesn’t completely excuse messy structure.

Despite minor organizational problems, I would highly recommend you see this fascinating movie if you get the chance, and if you don’t, at least listen to some of Chavela’s music, and if you don’t have tears in your eyes by the time you’re done, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

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UNTOUCHABLE

Directed By: David Feige

David Feige’s documentary Untouchable is a difficult film to review, mostly due to the painful and complicated subject content. Documentaries are difficult enough to critique since they’re more informational than entertaining, and one about the sex offender registry is even more challenging to discuss. As Feige said when introducing it at MSPIFF, “it’s hard to watch, but easy to remember.”

Untouchable explores the national sex offender registry, using the stories of individuals affected by it to show its intricacies. Interviewees include Ronald Book, a lobbyist who has been fighting for the toughest sex offender laws possible after discovering his daughter Lauren had been assaulted by her nanny; Shawna, a mother of two who has been on the registry since she was 18 for having drunken sex with a 15-year-old boy; and Patty Wetterling, the Minnesota mother whose son Jacob was kidnapped, assaulted, and murdered by a complete stranger who had no history of pedophilia on criminal record.

This film does an excellent job of showing all sides: the victims and their families as well as the sex offenders and theirs. They never try to excuse the behavior of the worst criminals, but they show that nothing about the registry is simply black and white, despite how a lot of the laws are set up.

Untouchable’s biggest problem is that they don’t explore sexual assault prevention; they make a point that it’s important but don’t really discuss it past some clips of Lauren Book reading her children’s book on the subject to a group of kids, and, as Patty Wetterling pointed out during the Q&A after the movie, just holding your hand up and loudly saying “No!” isn’t a solution. Granted, the majority of the film was about the intricacies of the sex offender registry laws, not sexual assault itself, but discussing prevention would have provided a good balance, especially since it is brought up during the film.

Despite this, Untouchable is an important documentary, and hopefully its release will lead to more exploration in and work on sex offender registry laws.

4Reels

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Have you seen either one of these documentaries? Well, what did you think? 

Updates on Hearts Want short film & quick review on The Lost City of Z

Hello folks! Been a while since I wrote anything for the blog. Well actually the last post I wrote was on the eve of filming Hearts Want, my short film… I published it past midnight and my hubby just got done printing my cast/crew contracts that night, if you can believe that!

Well, suffice to say I hadn’t really got time to watch/blog about anything these days. I took only 2 days off work after filming, but I still had a ton of stuff to take care of that week… returning costumes, writing checks, SAG paperwork, etc. I knew that post-filming I’d have a bit of a postpartum depression as we’d been running on adrenaline so much during pre-prod and principal photography that my life felt so utterly boring afterwards, ahah. Going back to work was particularly tough… I have to say I have been disillusioned w/ my job and the place I’ve been working for over a decade, and I enjoyed being a writer/producer so much that I know I want to do more of it.

If you happen to be on Facebook, would you kindly give Hearts Want Film Page a LIKE please?


Some people say it’s hard to ‘recover’ from something bad, but it’s equally hard to recover from something truly amazing. It could be because it’s my ever first film that I’ve been working on from the start, but I really couldn’t ask for a better experience! Everything went without a hitch and we even finished early both days, which was incredible given that we barely had time for pre-prod at all. I enjoyed every minute of the whirlwind two-day shoot.

The place where we did Day 1 shoot and the first half of Day 2 is a local theater called Southern Theater, which was built in 1910 so it looked like a vintage theater in Europe. It’s absolutely perfect for the play-within-the-film that’s set in the 40s (hence the bomber jacket and retro headscarf). Thanks to my amazing art director Cheri Anderson who found eight of these fantastic columns from a theater company that matched the look of the space perfectly. The two vintage lamp posts completed the look.

First day was a relatively short 10-hour day, but the second day was a pretty grueling 14+ hours shoot with a company move (that is moving to another location mid-day), which means we had to pack up the stage set pieces before we moved. Kudos to my director Jason P. Schumacher for being such a capable captain of the ship. It certainly helped when he’s assembled a phenomenal crew to get things done.

We only had to shoot three major scenes the second day but they’re dialogue-heavy and quite emotional for the actors. I was practically grinning ear to ear the entire time I watched my two leads Peter Hansen and Sam Simmons in character, their chemistry is incredible. Let’s just say the scene in the dressing room is muy caliente [fan self]

So in case you’re wondering… right now my film is in post-production. I’ve got one of the 1TB hard drives with all the raw footage so it’s been fun watching all the takes and I’m diligently taking notes for editing purposes.

My goal is to get this film ready for Twin Cities Film Fest later in October… but I’m working on launching a crowd-funding campaign now, so stay tuned!


This weekend I actually did have time to see a movie on the big screen! My hubby and I helped our friend (and lead actress) Sam move to her new apartment, then we went to see The Lost City of Z.

This was actually the opening film of Minneapolis St Paul Film Fest (MSPIFF) two weeks ago but I wasn’t able to attend because of the shooting schedule. I’m glad I got to see it in theaters. I quite enjoyed it despite it being a rather long film and has some long dramatic moments. I think people expecting a full-blown adventure film a la Indiana Jones might be disappointed. It’s a rather reflective adventure drama focusing on the struggle of the protagonist, British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett with his obsession to find the lost city.

I thought Charlie Hunnam was terrific in the lead role. Glad Brad Pitt passed on the role though he still signed on as producer. Hunnam has the rugged look, presence and vulnerability that made me identify with his role and easily empathize with his character. Robert Pattinson didn’t really make a dent in this film though I appreciate him taking on more understated supporting roles (and barely recognizable under a full beard) despite being an A-lister after Twilight. Another two actors I’m impressed with are Sienna Miller and Tom Holland (the new Spidey) as Fawcett’s wife and son, respectively. Glad writer/director James Gray didn’t make Miller just another devoted wife, but she actually has quite an integral role here in an era where women barely had a place in the conversation.

Holland is quite a versatile young actor. He didn’t appear until past the halfway mark but he was memorable. I like the scenes between him and Hunnam who convincingly played his dad despite only being 15 years apart in age.

If you’re curious to check it out, I urge you to see this on the big screen. The visuals are pretty striking but it also has an engaging story. It pains me that this film bombed while the more-bombastic-but-unapologetically-silly Kong Skull Island is a hit! I didn’t bother to review that one but I would have given it a 2.5/5.

This film however, is equally riveting and heartfelt. It also has an inspiring message against bigotry and racial supremacy that is more timely than ever.


So that’s the scoop on my passion project folks. How was your weekend? Seen anything good?

MSPIFF Review: In Between (2017)

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Directed By: Maysaloun Hamoud
Written By: Maysaloun Hamoud
Runtime: 1 hour 36 minutes

There aren’t many female-led films in Hollywood that aren’t cheesy romantic comedies or Lifetime Network-levels of stupid femme fatale stories. Fortunately, there are some that break the mold, including In Between. Writer and director Maysaloun Hamoud has created a film featuring three women with unique, compelling stories.

In Between follows the lives of three Palestinian women sharing a flat in Tel Aviv. Layla (Mouna Hawa), a carefree party girl by night and shrewd lawyer by day, has recently started a relationship with a young man whom she eventually realizes isn’t quite as accepting of her wild lifestyle. Salma (Sana Jammelieh), a bartender with dreams of being a famous DJ, suffers through her conservative Christian family’s attempts at finding her a husband while she develops a romance with another woman. Nour (Shaden Kanboura), a devout Muslim and university student working toward a degree in computer science, struggles to maintain her independence and work toward her own dreams while her controlling fiance pushes her to abandon her big city life for an obedient, domestic one.

This movie’s greatest strength is its three lead characters. They are all so well-written and well-acted. The flatmates have wonderful chemistry, especially polar opposites Layla and Nour, who develop an almost sister-like bond throughout the movie. Both Layla and Salma are refreshingly unapologetic about their lifestyles while still being incredibly likable, and Nour never gives up her sweet, demure nature, even after escaping her abusive relationship. She does come out of her shell a bit by the end of the movie, but her personality isn’t drastically changed, which I really like; in too many movies, they have the “shy” character do a complete 180, so it’s nice having a character who becomes a stronger person without giving up who she is.

That said, this film had one major problem: its pacing. It never stays on one character’s conflict long enough to establish the problem. For example, we only see Salma’s home life once at the very beginning before everything comes to a head toward the end, and there isn’t even hint of any romantic interest until right before that, so there’s not much time for the tension to build when she brings her new girlfriend to visit her family. Layla’s plot line feels similarly rushed; she mentions about halfway into the movie that she and her boyfriend have been dating for a while now, but nothing has indicated that passage of time, and when it becomes apparent that she is too liberal for him, it feels like it comes out of nowhere because no time was spent establishing that earlier in the movie. The majority of the focus of the film is on Nour, which is understandable as hers is the storyline with the highest stakes, but that doesn’t excuse the other two women’s plots being rushed.

Despite some lack of focus, In Between is an impressive film that is worth checking out. Maysaloun Hamoud shows a lot of promise, and I hope this is the beginning of an illustrious career for her.

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Have you seen ‘In Between’? Well, what did you think?