FlixChatter Review: VENOM (2018)


Review by: Vitali Gueron

The next Marvel Comics superhero action movie released by Sony Pictures in 2018 is Venom. The movie is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe, which is auxiliary to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Think The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man: Homecoming, etc.) This means that the studio intended to start a new shared universe of Marvel characters featuring those which Sony possesses film rights to and they also intend for the film to share the world of Spider-Man: Homecoming. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock/Venom, alongside Michelle Williams as Anne Weying, and Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake/Riot.

Venom basically centers on the story of Eddie Brock (Hardy), an investigative journalist who is dating Anne Weying (Williams), a District Attorney in San Francisco. Brock scores an interview with Carlton Drake (Ahmed) who is the CEO of The Life Foundation, and their research facility in San Francisco has been hit a lawsuit regarding Drake’s use of human trials to conduct research. When The Life Foundation discovers a comet covered in symbiotic lifeforms, they bring four samples back to Earth, but one escapes and causes the ship to crash. They recover three symbiots and transport them to their research facility, but the fourth escapes and takes human hosts as it makes it way to San Francisco. Brock is approached by Dora Skirth (Jenny Slate), one of Drake’s scientists who wants to help Brock expose him because she disagrees with his use of human trails. Skirth helps Brock break into the research facility to search for evidence, but a symbiote escapes from the body of woman used for human trials and transfers itself into Brock’s body. When Drake discovers Skirth’s betrayal, he kills her and sends a team to retrieve the symbiote from Brock. The symbiote takes over Brock’s body and transforms him into a monstrous creature that fights off the attackers.

The symbiote makes contact with Brock, and tells him that it is called Venom. It explains that the comet that The Life Foundation discovered is actually an invasion force that is searching for new worlds where the symbiotes can possess and devour their inhabitants. Venom offers to spare Brock if Brock helps the symbiotes achieve their goal, and he gets to possess the superhuman attributes that the symbiote gives him. Brock soon learns that the symbiote has two weaknesses: high-pitched noises and fire. Weying dumps Brock after she gets fired for helping Brock sneak into The Life Foundation but later she helps Brock when he struggles to cope with Venom’s strengths and weaknesses. Although Venom claims the Brock’s organ damage is a fixable part of their symbiosis, Weying uses an MRI machine to weaken the symbiote long enough for Brock to separate from it. Brock is then captured by Drake’s men. As the fourth symbiote Riot makes its way to San Francisco, it overpowers Drake and makes him take Riot in a Life Foundation space vessel to collect the rest of the symbiotes and bring them to Earth.

Weying reluctantly lets Venom take over her body so that they can free Brock from Drake’s capture. When Venom regains control of Brock’s body, it tells Brock that it has been convinced to help protect the Earth from other symbiotes through his understanding/connection with Brock and the human race, and they attempt to stop Riot (in Drake’s body) with Weying’s help. SPOILERS (highlight to read): Venom damages Riot’s space vessel as it takes off, causing it to explode and kill Riot (and Drake’s body). Weying also believes that Venom died in the explosion and that Brock is no longer taken over by Venom after this. However, Venom did not die and it secretly remains inside Brock and they set out to protect the city from dangerous criminals.

At the end, Brock goes back to investigative journalism and a future plot point is discussed in a mid-credit scene, featuring serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson). This is probably the most interesting part of the movie, as the other parts seem like they’ve been used before in Iron Man, Thor or Captain America. I am intrigued to what Woody Harrelson’s character will bring in future installments of this comic universe. Sadly, Venom was not a very strong movie in my opinion. What made it watchable was Tom Hardy, and the crazy voice he used as Venom.

Overall, this was a fun and intriguing movie with a very long and scattered plot line. While Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams tried to make their characters seem interesting and warm, they were not very successful in doing so. Hardy should take a page out of Deadpool and write some of him own lines for Venom 2, just as Ryan Reynolds did for Deadpool 2. Perhaps Hardy’s humor could benefit him more when he is in charge of what he says. Here’s to hoping the inevitable sequel is better than the first Venom.

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


2018 TCFF Education Programs–Empowering Filmmakers during the 11-day Film Fest

TCFF believes in free education.

What a truly inspiring and amazingly generous and empowering statement. That’s just one of the many, many reasons I am proud and privileged to have been a part of TCFF since its inception 9 years ago! Can you think of another film festival in town or even regionally that offers a plethora of insightful educational programs and opportunities to learn from various filmmakers/film experts FREE OF CHARGE?? I can’t imagine NOT taking the opportunity to be a part of those… or better yet, help support them!

As the recently-launched TCFF Education Program website says, TCFF is dedicated to providing resources for filmmakers to develop their craft, think critically, and connect with each other. We are always working with granting organizations and companies to support our FREE programs.

Before I get to the various events, here’s a few words from TCFF Educational Director Matt Cici (who loyal FC readers might be familiar with as I interviewed him here for his feature film Lambent Fuse):

When I first started making films, there was a part of me that wanted to share that process with those around me — involve them. I’ve always been an advocate of education and the arts, and after years of hosting events all around the Twin Cities for different film and art projects, I approached the TCFF to create more opportunities for others.

The education program for Twin Cities Film Fest is free for a major reason: education is a human right. So, I would like to provide access to all, no matter their background or experience level. It has proven to be successful, as many eight-year olds have shown me from the start of our Free Day or college students getting into their dream school due to becoming a Film Fellow. We have people who have come year after year to our Festival Panels only to now serve as a Panelist learning how to make great film and enjoy doing it—along the way. It can be tough to keep them free, especially as we startup many programs. We do have some of the most amazing sponsors that help make these happen.

This year is our best year yet.

Though, Twin Cities Film Fest Education is just getting started! I would highly recommend our College and Career Fair, especially if you don’t even plan to go to college or have a career in film. We see this as a fantastic opportunity to network with filmmakers, meet those who are also as passionate about education as we are, and understand what’s happening in your community. We also are 4-years strong into our annual Free Day filmmaking workshops (this year it has become so popular, we made it into two days!). Lastly, our Festival Panels feature some amazing discussion centering around systemic oppression (Black), female filmmakers and their journey (Women in Film), and our brand new category of bite-sized learning, TED-style talks called Ed Forums!

Check them out. They’re all free after all. Two films were bought last year because of our panels. Provide us with feedback; we love to learn how to become better.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. When creating new education programs, I like to be in the mindset of “Wow! I wish I had that when I was first discovering my passion.”


Saturday, 10/20 @ 12pm-2pm
Top colleges, media companies, and festival filmmakers are gathered all in one place to learn about you — there’s something for everyone!

Giveaways Include: iPad, Film Gear, and Filmmaking Software


Saturday, 10/20 @ 9:45am
Youth watch family-friendly films and meet the filmmakers.


Sunday, 10/21 @ 9AM – 4PM
A fun-filled day for youth to create short films.


A unique, guided curriculum during TCFF for students and educators to watch films, meet filmmakers, engage in discussion, and have VIP-access with TCFF alumni perks.

Selected TCFF Film Fellows will have extensive free access to the festival including:

  • Attending the Industry Night – Festival Lounge, Friday, 10/19
  • Invitation to the filmmaker brunch – Festival Lounge, Saturday, 10/20
  • Participating in educational workshops & panels – AC Hotel, Sat, 10/20, Sun, 10/21
  • Attending screenings – pre-selected features, docs, and short blocks at the Showplace ICON Theatre
  • Private time to meet with top performing colleges and media companies at the TCFF Career Day Fair (see above)
  • Exclusive meet and greets with visiting filmmakers
  • Invitation to TCFF Closing Night Ceremonies – Festival Lounge
  • Certificate of completion for attending all required events
  • Lifetime TCFF benefits
  • Join a private online group for film professionals to network, learn, and share

How to apply:
Students/Faculty/Staff can apply for free online: http://tcffeducation.org

Participation is free to students and educators; however, TCFF Film Fellows will have to provide their own transportation, lodging, and most meals.
More detailed information can be found on tcffeducation.org.


Short, in-depth presentations with interactive components that cover a variety of topics from film to culture.


Filmmakers discuss relevant industry topics, ranging from women in film to making movies in Minnesota.

Industry Night (FREE ADMISSION)

Friday, October 19 7:00 PM
TCFF Can Can Wonder-Lounge 1658 West End Blvd

Meet filmmakers at our fabulous annual event.
Presented by Headwaters Entertainment.

So, did you save any of these fabulous events on YOUR calendar yet?

Hope to see you at TCFF this year!

FlixChatter Review: THE PREDATOR (2018)

John McTiernan’s Predator came out 31 years ago, it spawned 2 sequels and 2 spinoffs. The original film felt fresh when it’s released back in the late 80s and I think it’s one of the Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films. The two sequels weren’t as good, both has its moments but quite forgettable to me. The spinoffs Alien vs. Predator were just awful. Yet somehow the studio folks at Fox never gave up the idea that it can turn into some profitable franchise for them. So, when Shane Black’s career got a new life after the success of Iron Man 3, he was offered a chance to write and direct a new solo Predator film.

While on a mission somewhere in in the jungle of Mexico, army sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) has an encounter with the Predator when its ship crash landed near his vicinity. McKenna decided to take a closer look at the alien spaceship but quickly realized he’s in danger when the occupant turns out to be hostile and killed all of his sniper teammates. But before he escaped, he’s able to grab some of the Predator’s equipment and sent them back to his house. After he escaped, McKenna was taken into questioning by a secret government agency lead by Traeder (Sterling K. Brown). Knowing he’s in danger with his own government, McKenna decided to keep his mouth shut and said he doesn’t know anything about what he saw but Traeder didn’t believe him and put him on a bus to take him to a more secure location for more questioning. While on the bus, McKenna got to know some weird characters ex-military men prisoners. Back at his home, the Predator’s items ended up at the hands of this autistic son Rory (Jacob Tremblay), who studies them intently and accidentally sending a signal to another Predator who comes to earth for blood.

Traeder’s team was able to capture the predator and decided to call up a scientist named Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) to help with figuring out why the alien is back on earth. Of course, things didn’t turn out well and the Predator was able to free himself and killed a lot of people. It’s now up to Mckenna and his team of ex-military misfits to stop not one but two Predators from destroying the world.

Co-written by Black and his best bud Fred Dekker, the story is kind of mess. There’s no real focus on the plot, there are plenty of ideas being thrown around but Black and Dekker are only interested in delivering funny dialogs and on-screen violence. Also, by giving us more information about the Predator’s intention, it just took out the mysteries surrounding these creatures and made them less scary. To me, what worked in the first film was the lack of information about the Predator, it’s here to hunt people for sports and it kills for fun; that to me made the first film kind of scary.

Speaking of violence, Black intended to make this film as hard R rated as he could, so if you have weak stomach, you might not like the over the top violence being shown on screen. The most disappointing thing to me about this film was the lack of any signature action scenes. Sure, there are plenty of action in the film but most of them were badly-shot or ended way too quickly. Black is known for writing some of the best action films ever made, but as a director, he just doesn’t know how to execute his written words for the screen.

Performance wise, I think the supporting cast were pretty good. But I was never a fan of Holbrook and he’s not a strong leading man material. He’s the kind of actor who tends overacts and I never believe the character he’s portraying. Sterling K. Brown seemed to have a lot of fun, his character is combination of Carl Weather’s character from the first film and Gary Busey’s from the second. He overacts in a lot of his scenes, but I didn’t mind it too much. Just like other Predator films, Munn’s the only female character in the story and I thought she carried herself pretty well. I’m just glad they didn’t make her into another damsel-in-distress type.

I think this is a film that could’ve been a lot better with fresh eyes, but with Black having full control, he really wants to take the audience back into the old style of action films from bygone years. I personally don’t mind that at all if it’s well made but this latest sequel was just too messy and didn’t have a real focus. While I enjoyed some parts of it, I kind of wish they got a new crew to work on this one.


So have you seen The Predator? Well, what did you think?

Set Visit to Indie Sci-Fi Thriller DARK CLOUD + Q & A with director Jay Ness & lead actress Alexys Gabrielle

Following a horrific accident, a woman voluntarily becomes a test subject to an artificial intelligence designed to rehabilitate her. In a world dependent on machines, she learns not all technological advancement has humanity’s best interests in mind.

Starring: Emily Atack, Alexys Gabrielle, Hugo Armstrong
Written by: John J. Kaiser
Directed by: Jay Ness


As a huge film fan, it’s always awesome to be invited on set during filming. It’s extra fun when the filmmaker is a personal friend of mine and is one of the talented camera crew of my Hearts Want. So thank you Jay Ness, for inviting me on set and taking the time to talk to me about your film! The day of the my set visit in mid August, they happen to be filming an indoor scene with a Minnesota-based actor Toussaint Morrison and the film’s lead actress Alexys Gabrielle. So I’m thrilled that I was able to get a few minutes to chat with her on their lunch break. Here are pictures I posted on my Instagram from the set…

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Awesome #setvisit & #interview today! Thanks @dark_cloud_official 🎬 . . . . What an #inspiring day to watch my #friends & fellow #filmmakers at work #onset #filming their #scifi #featurefilm Thanks @jay_ness for letting @pixelcrave & I visit the #DarkCloud set. So #inspired chatting with you & also lovely meeting the talented #actors @alexysgabrielle & @toussaintmorrison + #makeupartist @muanicolefae💄There’s a bit of @heartswantfilm #crew #reunion too w/ @kirstie01h @benenke @timmy_rs @bstraubjr ❤️ Wishing everyone a great finish down to the last day of shoot next week! #filmmaking #indiefilmmaking #indiefilmmakers #setlife #mnfilm #mnmade #filmset #moviemaking #bloggerslife #filmblogger #livingthedream

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Here’s my Q&A with Jay:

What is Dark Cloud? Would you give us an elevator pitch if you will of your film?

Following a horrific accident, a woman volunteers to become a test subject of an artificial intelligence designed to rehabilitate her. In a world dependent on machines, she learns that not all technological advancement has humanity’s best interest in mind.

There’s been a ton of films/tv series made that deals with AI, but how do you see this story different from the pack?

I feel like a lot of films jump very far into the future, while this one is closer to present day that we’re familiar with, with hints of what’s coming. It’s also a slight shift from reality. I look at the story as a small stepping stone to a place that’s more of a transition to that AI takeover or post-apocalyptic, James Cameron’s Terminator vibe or Blade Runner. We try very hard to keep this film grounded. The role of Emily Attack is pretty much a glorified Alexa or Siri, so things that are happening right now but more enhanced, the next level of AI technology. For example, the contact lenses that they use is being developed by Samsung, they can project images to your eyes, etc. So it’s definitely a world that’s relatable, but there are little quirks in the characters, such as in the way they dress, that tell the audience this isn’t quite the same as present day.

How’s the experience been so far directing your first feature?

I feel very fortunate that I’ve got a team that really allows me to disconnect from a lot of technical and performance concern in a sense that, the lead & supporting cast, all took direction so well. I have the luxury of talents that take direction so well that I’m not worried about getting what I need or not getting something that is crucial. We have been able to work through every scene in different ways and find inventive paths as not to go down the same route scene after scene. With a film like Dark Cloud where we have a protagonist in one location for an hour and a half, it’s incredibly crucial to be able to vary what the audience is seeing and what kind of journey they’re taking by way of presenting dynamic performances.

I heard that the way you’ll be filming Emily Attack (who’s based in the UK) is quite unusual. Can you tell me more about that?

Right now the current plan is to utilize her likeness with this incredible face tracking technology. It’s not unlike what people are doing with Snapchat, with the face swapping technology. This is on the next level but the same idea, we’re seeing how easy it is to manipulate existing footage or photos. Jordan Peele did that with Barack Obama, it’s very similar to that. At times it would feel incredibly real but other times you’d sense something is not quite right where it touches its uncanny valley. We’re coming at it with that angle in order to walk that fine line of reality and science-fiction fantasy.

Would you talk a bit about casting? Especially Alexys Gabrielle as the lead.

It’s an anomaly situation. We did several calls via Skype and FaceTime, so I didn’t get to meet Alexys until she’s on set. I spent a lot of time talking with her casually so I get to know who this talented woman was. What made the most sense to me, when she read lines, it doesn’t sound like she’s reading lines. It’s important to get on the same page and share a lot of values that goes into art and storytelling and filmmaking. Both John Kaiser (the writer of the project) and I both agree that parts should cater the person playing them, there should be room for adjustments because honesty in a performance is so ridiculously important. If the audience isn’t on board with the performance, then it doesn’t feel real.

You have collaborated w/ JJ Kaiser for a long time. In this particular project, has there been time where you and John didn’t see eye to eye on something?

It wasn’t so much about a particular person, it’s more about the kind of talent we were looking for. There’s no part that’s written particularly for a person, there’s not one single person we went after. For example, the character Bruce, it could’ve easily been a disaster if Hugo Armstrong didn’t come on board. He’s a character actor who’s able to walk the line between comedy and drama and being quirky so well. We have a lot of disagreements and discussions about that character and how he’d be portrayed in order for him to be a pivotal device for the relationship between Chloe and Ada to grow. We had different ideas about what that’s like so we needed someone that could mash all those things together without resorting to a caricature. He did an amazing job making the character grounded and also weird and quirky.

What has been the most challenging aspect about this project so far?

Well indie filmmaking is just very demanding work, the long hours, exhaustion, etc. I think the most challenging and frustrating of all is also a blessing in a way in a sense that we don’t have a lot of money stored for this so any problem has to be solved quickly. Because we have to problem solve creatively all the time, I think that definitely takes a toll on one’s ability to perform the best. Maybe that’s debatable. I feel when you don’t have tons of cash, it forces you to be creative. It’s a double-edged sword. And then fact that life happens, there are a lot of unforeseeable things that are unpredictable and difficult for some of our crew members but we’re there for each other to cover what we need to cover. Today for instance, Alexys (Lexy) has to give a performance and her co-star wouldn’t be able to be there… I feel awful about that because it’s not easy. I feel that this scenario takes away from what she could’ve given us. Those are the kind of things you just have to have creative solutions for.

All of that makes you grow as a filmmaker, as an artist, but being surrounded by the right group of people, it makes you much more confident about the project. I believe Ron Howard said collaborations fail all the time, and there are a lot of room for error, but we’ve come up way on top. There have been more successes than failures.

Here’s my Q&A with Alexys:

Firstly, welcome to MN. Is this your first visit to MN and also your first time filming in MN?

Yes. My first time in MN and you guys have the reputation of being MN Nice and it’s true, everyone is so nice and I love it here. There’s a great film community and it’s a very artistic place to be, but I’m glad I’m not here in the Winter time.

You’ve done a lot of short films and TV work but this is your first time working on a feature film. How’s the experience been so far?

Yes this is my feature length film as a lead and it’s been incredible. I think that it’s pretty amazing that Craig, John and Jay took a bit of a risk on me because as you said, this is my first feature and they gave me a lead role. But I have quite a bit of experience and I’ve trained for years. Some people asked me, ‘oh are you nervous?’ But honestly I haven’t been all that nervous on set, more of excited nerves but I think I’d be more nervous to watch it for the first time. It’s when everything came together and you wish you had done a great job.

How’s working with Jay Ness and his team?

It’s been great, working with Jay is fantastic and everyone is so good at what they do. We’ve had such wonderful direction and Chloe’s character (Alexys’ role) really goes through incredible transformation from when you see her in the beginning of the film to the end, she goes through quite a lot. So given that, there’s a lot of emotional arc that comes and goes in waves but also builds to the end so Jay and I have a lot of conversations about the character to prepare for filming. That helps a lot because in filming, you do a lot of things that are out of order and we’ve been able to keep Chloe’s emotional state and her feelings right on track despite having to jump around. It’s been fantastic and I feel really blessed to get the opportunity to portray this role and I feel confident about everything we’ve shot so far.

How do you identify and relate to your character? Especially since the world this film inhabits isn’t quite the same to the world we live today?

As an actor, my number one job is to tell a story truthfully but also able to use my imagination to tell that story. We have to use our imagination a lot on this set because certain things we haven’t experienced yet in our world today. For example, we have these contact lenses that project something that we see in front of us. We don’t have that yet but I can imagine having a screen popping up in front of me. And so yeah, it’s fun to be able to wrap your mind and toy with the idea of these [futuristic] things which has been really cool. As far as relating to my character Chloe as a whole, even though this film is set in a world where there’s more advanced technology, I think the root of it, the underlying message of the film is that humans are still humans, no matter what time we’re living in. So that’s very important. When it comes to the emotion and experiences that Chloe is going through, and she’s been through more than I have, but she’s still a human I can relate to. I think the parallel of technology and us, humanity is one of the cool things to see in this film.

How’s the collaboration with John Kaiser (writer) and Jay Ness (director) been for you?

One of the best things about independent features is that everyone is really open to creative collaboration. Jay and John have been really cool about involving me in the writing process and the overall vision for the film. From day one since I agreed to be a part of this until now, when dealing with some rewrites or changes, they’ve been open in asking me for my thoughts. Jay from day one has always said to make Chloe’s character my own and he tells me if something doesn’t feel right, if some words don’t roll off the tongue as Chloe, then change it. You don’t often get the opportunity to do that and that’s understandable too. But this way it’s just been really great in allowing me to encompass Chloe as a whole and be able to combine elements of myself into this character, which a lot of the times can bring so much more life to it. So it’s been really, really fun. I feel so grateful that they both have trusted me enough to ask me for my opinion.

How do you prepare for the role of Chloe?

I’ve been trying to understand the hardship that she’s gone through. I spoke to a couple different people who have been in a similar accidents, how they deal with the trauma after an accident, just to see what that would be like. It gave so much insights to that world. With memory loss, they’re afraid to lose moments in the future because they don’t know if those memories will stick around. That’s huge. They feel that with any time they’ve gone through a physical or mental trauma, that their family don’t even see them the same way, or they lose their independence. All of these aspects are so important to Chloe so I feel that I need to do the research do the very best to honor what people go through in these situations. I hope that reads well when the film comes out.

What have been your inspirations in preparation for this film?

I did watch a few sci-fi films just to feel the vibe of the film and try to make connections between what I think this film would bring versus what those films brought. So I watched HER, Ex Machina, there’s one called TAO that’s on Netflix. So I’ve been watching a lot of those sci-fis, specifically around the theme of artificial intelligence. I have some important takeaways but I also feel that our film is so unique in the way that the approach between the AI (AIDA) and my character Chloe so it taught what to do and what not to do in terms of how we approach our character. For example, in HER the AI is customary and seems very natural in the way that she spoke, she sounds very human. But with AIDA she seems very real but there are times that her speech patterns where it tells you that’s not quite human, there’s something that’s slightly off. That’s an important note for me to take as an actor, as that’d affect how you’d interact with the AI. The other end of the spectrum, there’s Alexa and Siri that feels/sound obviously artificial. So I think that the way Jay explains AIDA in her fashion, her sense and her essence and her speech is important to me when I’m watching all these films. Obviously Emily who’s playing with me isn’t here but we have a wonderful actress, Anna Stranz (who also plays my sister in the film) who’s reading with me in her place. She’s been doing a fantastic job in giving me something to play off of and it’s amazing just how the voice makes a difference, how a mechanics in the voice makes a huge difference.

More pictures from the set!
Thanks Ivan Maramis.

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Thanks Jay and Alexys for chatting with me about Dark Cloud! 

FlixChatter Review: A Star Is Born (2018)

Once in a while, a film came along that you couldn’t stop thinking and talking about for days, maybe weeks. I may be one of the last few people in the universe who have never seen any of the three prior adaptation of A Star Is Born. Somehow I managed to avoid reading about the whole story, which adds a bit of mystery to it all. But even if you have seen all three and very familiar with this epic love drama, you still should see Bradley Cooper’s version simply because well, it’s an amazing film.

The contrast between two musicians at two opposite spectrum, one shooting up the stratosphere and the other on a downward spiral sure makes for a great cinematic adaptation.  Right from the moment the film opens, with Cooper’s Jackson Maine going up to the stage, popping pills before he performed to an audience of thousands. You can see the dread and sadness in his eyes… despite all his fame and money and success. I was immediately blown away by Cooper’s gravely voice, apparently he trained so much that he lowered his voice down one octave! The whole scene was so beautifully-filmed and the angle from the stage makes you feel like you’re actually there.

It doesn’t take long before Jackson meets the woman he soon falls in love with that would change his life forever. Lady Gaga’s Ally singing La Vie En Rose in that drag club will surely thrill her Little Monsters but as more of a casual fan of hers, I too was captivated by her. Gaga’s star quality is indisputable, but it’s after she takes her makeup off is when she truly shines. That’s another directorial decision that works perfectly in the film, that Cooper insisted Gaga strips down to her au naturel look and shows her true beauty.

The romance itself is more of a slow burn… and boy is it ever mesmerizing. I love that Cooper take the time for us to get to know both of them and actually witness two strangers fall in love. That scene in a convenience store is both funny and touching, Jackson using a frozen veggie bag as an ice pack is the stuff of rom-com meet-cute. But their romance is not cutesy, it’s intense and heartfelt. The moment Ally belted her own song in an empty parking lot was truly a memorable one. That was memorable moment to be sure, but the moment Ally got up on stage and sang a duet of The Shallow with Jackson gave me chills! This film has a phenomenal soundtrack that lives up to the fact that it’s about artists in the music industry. Every song is beautiful and emotionally-resonant, perhaps even more so because in the context of this beautifully-realized story. You feel for both Jackson and Ally. The roller coaster ride of their whirlwind relationship swells you up to cloud nine level, only to crash it down that you literally feels a pang in your heart. I packed SO many tissues going in but I still almost ran out. I was even thinking if anyone didn’t shed a tear or at least choked up watching this, one should check their pulse.

The chemistry between Gaga and Cooper has been all over the news and truly it’s something to behold on screen. It’s one of those magical cinematic pairing that’ll be talked about for ages. Obviously Gaga is already an iconic music star, but this film proves she’s got what it takes to be a movie star as well. She’s got this magnetic presence and yet somehow relatable in the way she portrays Ally who’s vulnerable and insecure. So when Jackson tells her she’s beautiful, her aghast reaction is believable, just like many of us women feel that way as well. I also appreciate the message about having an authentic voice and something real to say in an industry where artists are often dictated by producers, the media, even fans, to be something they’re not.

As for Cooper, much has been talked about his phenomenal directing debut and rightly so. I’d be rooting for him in the Best Director (and even Best Picture) category come award season, but I’d also be rooting for him to at least nab a Best Actor category. His Jackson Maine is classic leading man material… there’s a particular moment halfway in the film that’s both funny but also cringe-worthy and heart-wrenching. I don’t want to spoil it for you but the expression in Jackson’s eyes didn’t just tug my heart strings, it ripped it to shreds. Pardon the melodrama here but I feel it’s appropriate for this review.

The supporting cast is great all around. Sam Elliot definitely stood out as Jackson’s older brother. It’s quite amusing how Cooper trained to match Elliot’s trademark super-deep voice and it worked to make the casting even more believable. Dave Chapelle is fun to watch as Jackson’s bestie, wish he had more screen time though. One thing I notice though, is that aside from Gaga, there’s not a single memorable female performer in this film. It’s not really a criticism, more of an observation, but I couldn’t help but wish there’s at least one or two female supporting cast here.

Overall though, this is one sublime motion picture that defies the theory that ‘all remakes are automatically bad.’ Largely thanks to Cooper’s masterful direction and casting choice (that is casting himself and believing in Gaga as Ally), as well the sharp script by Cooper, Eric Roth and Will Fetters. The cinematography by Matthew Libatique is gorgeous and has that immersive quality. As I mentioned before, some of the concert scenes (partly filmed at Coachella Festival) makes you feel like you’re there on stage with the performers. Cooper’s vocal training paid off, but more importantly, I think his clear vision of what he wants this film to look, feel and sound proves that he’s an artist to be reckoned with. I sometimes giggle when I think he’s also the same actor voicing Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Now that’s range, folks!

This is a love story for the ages… that’s actually more than just epic romance. I’m glad I finally get to see A Star Is Born that feels as timeless as ever.

Have you seen the latest ‘A Star Is Born’? I’d love to hear what you think!

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST 2018 tickets on sale today! 20 of My Most-Anticipated Selections

October is already here! And most of you know it’s always an exciting month for me thanks to TCFF!

Well, TICKETS ARE ON SALE NOW… so if you haven’t looked at the diverse and inspiring lineup yet, you better get them asap before they sell out!

Check out the full lineup »
Click on the Buy Tickets button on its individual film page.

Once again, the 11-day film festivities runs from October 17-27 at Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End with ICON•X. Click the handy schedule grid below in PDF format.

Now, it’s hard to pick just a few to get excited about as there are simply too many great ones premiering at this year’s fest. So I come up with twenty of must-see movies, broken down by two categories. I’ve also posted the list of the daily schedules below. Films by female filmmakers are marked with an asterisk (*).

Indie and MN-connected Features:

Time For Ilhan*

Director: Norah Shapiro
An eye-opening documentary that follows the 2016 Minnesota House of Representatives campaign of Ilhan Omar, a Somalian immigrant who sets out to unseat a 43-year incumbent and other challengers.

As an immigrant living in Minnesota, this film obviously resonates with me. It’s a film by women AND about women. But surely this is an important film regardless of your background, and I’m thrilled to see this documentary be a part of this year’s TCFF!!

Inventing Tomorrow*

Director: Laura Nix
“Inventing Tomorrow” follows six young scientists from Indonesia, Hawaii, India and Mexico as they tackle some of the most complex environmental issues facing humanity today – right in their own backyards. Each student is preparing original scientific research that he or she will defend at ISEF, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Framed against the backdrop of the severe environmental threats we now face, the audience is immersed in a global view of the planetary crisis, through the eyes of the generation that will be affected by it most.

I love docs that highlights young people, especially young people of color! Yes the fact that I’m from Indonesia and there’s a student from my homeland immediately appeals to me but really, this sounds like an inspiring doc that would make us hopeful about our future.

Rich Kids*

Director: Laura Somers
A group of troubled teens from a low-income community break into “Los Ricos”, the local mansion with a border fence, and spend the day pretending to be rich in order to forget their difficult lives.

It’s another film by a female filmmaker which subject matter intrigues me. Who hasn’t tried to escape from difficult circumstances in our lives? But for these kids, that escape seems more elusive than most.

Noah Wise

Director: Ben Zuckert
As a saxophonist’s quartet comes to an end, he meets a singer-songwriter whose career is just beginning.

I love indie movies that deals with music/musicians. The preview just looks like something I’d enjoy. It reminds me a bit of the indie romance Dust Storm from a years ago that premiered at TCFF, and the storyline also has a bit of that A Star Is Born vibe to it.

Origin Story*

Director: Kulap Vilaysack
Twenty years after learning about her biological father, Kulap Vilaysack finally asks the questions that will lead her to him.

As someone who grew up without a dad, I feel fortunate that at least I knew who my dad was even if he didn’t raise me. I can’t imagine the intricate and likely painful journey of those trying to track down their biological parent. This sounds like a heart-warming tale that’ll sure to linger after the end credits roll.

Lez Bomb*

Director: Jenna Laurenzo
A comedy about a young woman who struggles telling her overbearing mother that the friend she brought home for Thanksgiving is actually her girlfriend.

Thanksgiving with family can be a wonderful as well as stressful time, and that’s why it always makes for an intriguing subject matter. This comedy will sure resonate with anyone who’s ever had a trepidation about sharing a secret with a family member, especially during the holidays.


Director: Megan Griffiths
“Sadie” is the story of a girl who will stop at nothing to preserve her father’s place on the home front. Sadie (Sophia Mitri Schloss) is the daughter of a soldier and models herself after his military example. When her mom (Melanie Lynskey) begins dating a new man (John Gallagher, Jr.), Sadie vows to drive him out by whatever means necessary. He is the enemy, and if she’s learned anything from the world she inhabits, it’s that the enemy deserves no mercy. Also starring Tony Hale, Danielle Brooks, Tee Dennard and Keith L. Williams.

I LOVE Melanie Lynskey and so I’m glad to see her in a film in this year’s fest! But sounds like Sophia Mitri Schloss is the breakout star here in this emotional family drama.

Humor Me

Director: Sam Hoffman
“Humor Me” is a heartfelt father-son comedy about a struggling playwright who is forced to move in with his joke-telling dad in a New Jersey retirement community and learns, as his father often says, “life’s going to happen, whether you smile or not.”

I feel like this ‘down on his luck guy moving back in with his parents’ story has been told many time before, but it instantly feels fresh with Jemaine Clement, one of the awesome musical duo of Flight of the Concords and of course, my all time fave vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows!

American Tender

Director: C.J. Renner
It was never just a date.

I’ve become a fan of MN filmmaker CJ Renner since I saw his innovative noir GUNN (see my interview last year with him here). He said this one sort of ‘sneaked up on him’ as he seemed to have shot this film fairly quickly. I was immediately hooked by the cool, mysterious trailer!

When Jeff Tried to Save the World*

Director: Kendall Goldberg
Starring Jon Heder in attendance (Napoleon Dynamite) & Jim O’Heir (Parks & Recreation): When the manager of an old-school bowling alley discovers the owner’s plans to sell, saving Winky’s World means pulling himself out of the gutter, too.

Can you believe ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ was 14 years ago?? I really enjoyed that one when I first saw it. Well, Jon Heder is back and he’ll actually be in attendance in October!! This sounds like another comedic winner that sure to warm the hearts.

Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me

Director: Sam Pollard
The first major film documentary to examine Sammy Davis, Jr.’s vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th-century America.

I love Sammy Davis Jr.’s voice and music but I don’t know anything about his life. Given the era when he grew up, this sure to be a fascinating documentary not to be missed!

Point of No Return

Director: Noel Dockstader and Quinn Kanaly
Two pilots attempt to fly their fragile, experimental solar airplane – Solar Impulse – around the world to prove the potential of clean energy.

I love docs about innovative technology and this looks amazing visually plus the idea of solar plane is just so darn cool! 


Studio Features:

Green Book

Director: Peter Farrelly

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali is a cinematic duo I didn’t think I need but now I can’t imagine living without. Last time I saw Ali was in the phenomenal Oscar-winner Moonlight (which I also saw at TCFF!) and Viggo was in the excellent family drama Captain Fantastic. Together they’d surely electrify the screen!

A Private War

Director: Matthew Heineman
One of the most celebrated war correspondents of our time, Marie Colvin is an utterly fearless and rebellious spirit, driven to the frontline of conflicts across the globe to give voice to the voiceless.

I’ve been a long admirer of Rosamund Pike, long before she starred in career-turning Gone Girl. This sounds like an Oscar-worthy performance from the versatile and talented Brit.

The Favourite

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail (Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

Whenever Yorgos Lanthimos directs something, it seems to always get tongue wagging. ‘The Lobster’ is one of those bizarrely-wonderful movie that makes you go ‘just what the heck is going on?’ This time he seems to apply that same strange sensibilities to a royal family period drama.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?*

Director: Marielle Heller
Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) who made her living in the 1970’s and 80’s profiling the likes of Katharine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee is no longer able to get published because she has fallen out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant). An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer (and friend to cats).

Melissa McCarthy is tackling a dramatic role in this biopic that’s originally supposed to star Julianne Moore. I’m even more intrigued the fact that she’s the lead here, and for me, I’m always intrigued by films about writers.


Director: Steve McQueen

“Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

When I first saw this trailer, I knew I had to see it!! I mean Viola Davis going full bad-ass mode a la Liam Neeson in ‘Taken’, and hey he actually played her husband!! Then I saw Steve McQueen directing… so yeah, bring. it. on!!

If Beale Street Could Talk

Director: Barry Jenkins
“Widows” is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Viola Davis), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez) and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

I mentioned one of TCFF’s gala films ‘Moonlight’ earlier. Well glad to see Barry Jenkins’ follow-up feature made it to TCFF this year. This looks like a tear-jerker and absolutely heart-wrenching. I was instantly smitten by the two young leads KiKi Layne and Stephan James.

Saving Flora

Director: Mark Taylor
An unbreakable bond between an elephant and girl is put to the test, How far will you go to save a friend?

A family drama about a kid bonding with an elephant? Well this looks like a heart-warming and less-fantastical version of ‘Dumbo’ that’s out next year. Glad to hear David Arquette and Tom Arnold might attend the premiere on October 22!

Chef Flynn

Director: Cameron Yates
Ten-year-old Flynn transforms his living room into a supper club using his classmates as line cooks. With sudden fame, Flynn outgrows his bedroom kitchen, and sets out to challenge the hierarchy of the culinary world.

This doc about young culinary whiz will sure wet our appetite and wish you had even an iota of his talents around the kitchen! So interesting that he even involves his classmates as cooks. Renowned chef Andrew Zimmern who’s now based in MN is scheduled to make an appearance on Thursday, Oct. 25’s premiere!

Films directed by women

Great things come in small packages! Don’t forget about the wonderful short films selections. Check out what’s playing in the seven SHORT BLOCKS that’s been curated by TCFF programmers!



Wed – October 17

5:45p.m.: Time for Ilhan, Noah Shapiro*

8:15p.m.: Green Book, Peter Farrelly*

Thurs – October 18

1:30p.m.: The Eyes of ThailandWindy Borman

2:00p.m.: Lez BombJenna Laurenzo

3:30p.m.: After Hours TradingFredrick Johnson

4:00p.m.: Inventing TomorrowLaura Nix

6:15p.m.: Point of No ReturnNoel Dockstader and Quinn Kanaly

7:00p.m.: American TenderC.J. Renner*

8:40p.m.: Time TrapMark Dennis & Ben Foster

9:15p.m.: Laugh ’til You DIE ShortsVarious

Fri – October 19

2:15p.m.: Nor Any Drop to Drink, Cedric Taylor

3:00p.m.: Coby, Christian Sonderegger

5:00p.m.: The Shingle Life, Peter Marcy

5:15p.m.: One Bedroom, Darien Sills-Evans

7:20p.m.: When Jeff Tried to Save the World, Kendall Goldberg

9:35p.m.: Strange Nature, Jim Ojala

9:45p.m.: In This Gray Place, R.D. Womack II 

Sat – October 20

10:00a.m.: Through the Windmill, Amanda Kulkoski

11:45a.m.: Kids Incorporated Shorts, Various

12:00p.m.: F.R.E.D.I, Sean Olson

1:45p.m.: Not in My Lifetime, Pam Colby

2:30p.m.: Chasing the Thunder, Mark Benjamin Rhino ShieldBilly Ward

3:45p.m.: Noah Wise, Ben Zuckert*

5:10p.m.: Summer ’03, Becca Gleason

6:15p.m.: Widows, Steve McQueen*

7:30p.m.: Black, David J. Buchanan

7:30p.m.: Humor Me, Sam Hoffman

9:10p.m.: Long Lost, Erik Bloomquist

9:45p.m.: Gags, Adam Krause

Sun – October 21

10:10a.m.: Rich Kids, Laura Somers*

11:00a.m.: Belong to Us, Patrick Rea

12:30p.m.: Regarding the Case of Joan of Arc, Matthew D. Wilder

1:30p.m.: Life in the Doghouse, Ron Davis

3:00p.m.: Operation Wedding, Anat Zalmanson Kuznetsov

5:00p.m.: The Testament, Amichai Greenberg

7:00p.m.: Homeward Bound – Shorts, Various

7:30p.m.: 93Queen, Paula Eiselt

9:30p.m.: Two in the Bush: A Love Story, Laura Madalinski

Mon – October 22

3:45p.m.: The Push, Grant Korgan and Brian Niles

4:00p.m.: Special Ed, Frank Anderson

6:00p.m.: Saving Flora, Mark Taylor

6:30p.m.: The Lumber Baron, Barry Anderson

7:00p.m.: Sadie, Megan Griffiths

9:15p.m.: We Can Relate – Shorts, Various

9:20p.m.: All Square, John Hyams 

Tues – October 23

2:45p.m.: Fire on the Hill, Brett Fallentine

5:00p.m.: The Skin of the Teeth, Matthew Wollin

5:10p.m.: Finding Hygge, Rocky Walls

7:00p.m.: Can You Ever Forgive Me? Marielle Heller

7:30p.m.: Across the Water, Nicolo Donato

9:30p.m.: Wunderland, Steven Luke

9:40p.m.: JackRabbit 29, Kyle Klubal

Wed – October 24

2:45p.m.: American Tender, C.J. Renner

3:15p.m.: Sadie, Megan Griffiths

3:45p.m.: The Lumber Baron, Barry Anderson

5:00p.m.: The Prodigal Dad, Robert Wenzek

5:45p.m: Big Dream, Kelly Cox

6:30p.m.: Legend of Cambria, Alexei Tylevich

7:10p.m.: Passionate Voices – Shorts, Various

8:00p.m.: Who Will Write our History, Roberta Grossman

8:15p.m.: The Best People, Dan Levy Dagerman

9:25p.m.: Witch, Vanessa Magowan Horrocks Powers 

Thurs – October 25

2:45p.m.: Chasing the Thunder, Mark Benjamin

5:00p.m.: Song of Back and Neck, Paul Lieberstein

5:10p.m.: Artistic Expressions – Shorts, Various

7:05p.m.: Chef Flynn, Cameron Yates

7:15p.m.: Shoelaces, Jacob Goldwasser

9:15p.m.: Thrilling, Tingling Tales – Shorts, Various

9:25p.m.: Newly Single, Adam Christian Clark 

Fri – October 26

10:00a.m.: Noah Wise, Ben Zuckert

10:30a.m.: Time Trap, Mark Dennis & Ben Foster

12:15p.m.: In This Gray Place, R.D. Womack II

12:45p.m.: The Prodigal Dad, Robert Wenzek

5:00p.m.: Electric LoveAaron Fradkin

5:30p.m.: Generation StartUp, Cynthia Wade, Cheryl Miller Houser

7:00p.m.: Boy Erased, Joel Edgerton

7:45p.m.: Lez Bomb, Jenna Laurenzo

9:45p.m.: Muse, John Burr 

Sat – October 27

10:00a.m.: Origin Story, Kulap Vilaysack

10:10a.m.: The Push, Grant Korgan and Brian Niles

12:20p.m.: In a Relationship, Sam Boyd

12:30p.m.: DocuMNtary: The Story of Tech in MInnesota, Nick Roseth

2:00p.m.: Zeroes, Charles St. John Smith III

2:45p.m.: The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos

4:30p.m.: A Private War, Matthew Heineman

5:30p.m: If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins

7:00p.m.: United Skates, Tina Brown & Dyana Winkler

8:15p.m.: Doubtful, Eliran Elya

Festival Passes breakdown:

  • Silver Pass – $50 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets)
  • Gold Pass – $80 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets)
  • Platinum Pass – $120 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets)
  • Gala Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Gala Film)
  • All Access Pass – $500 (Guaranteed seat in premiere row at ANY screening +more!).

Oh and as if great films aren’t enough for the 11-day festivities, check out the amazing lineup of FREE EDUCATIONAL events!!

So which of these film(s) are YOU most excited about?

INDIE FILM REVIEW: Better Off Zed (2018)

DIRECTOR: Travis Stevens
STARRING: Christine Woods and Graham Sibley

What if the apocalypse came… and you were happy about it?

Better Off Zed focuses on a married couple, Paige (Christine Woods) and Guy (Graham Sibley), who have barricaded themselves in their suburban California home to survive the zombie apocalypse. While Paige eagerly listens to the radio for evacuation information and tries to flag down rescue helicopters, Guy is less concerned with escaping and sees their predicament as an opportunity for an easier life with no responsibilities.

This movie is such a refreshing take on the zombie genre. It’s interesting seeing the focus on what life during a zombie apocalypse could mean past just not being eaten and the surprising perks of it (zombie apocalypse=no more student loan payments!) while establishing a great message about how playing it safe can end up being dangerous. The bright, cheerful set design contrasting with the dark subject matter reflects that message so well; Paige and Guy live in a sunny yellow house surrounded by lush greenery and colorful flowers, but just outside their fence is a slowly growing crowd of the flesh-hungry undead.

The acting in this movie is also fantastic. It could be hard to keep a movie interesting and engaging with only two actors with speaking roles, but Better Off Zed delivers. Christine Woods and Graham Sibley have excellent chemistry, from their touching romantic moments to their growing tension and marital conflict. Graham does a wonderful job playing Guy as both infuriating and sympathetic, but Christine stands out as Paige with some strong comedic skills; she has this great moment where she cries over a pair of boots that she’ll never get to buy and her performance is both hilarious and heartbreaking.

My only complaint about this movie has to do with the pacing, as it does feel a bit slow after a while. There’s a lot of focus on the monotony of being stuck in the house forever, which I understand is important since so much of the focus is on feeling trapped and limited, but it’s established well enough that the movie doesn’t need to be as long as it is; it goes past building tension to being kind of boring. That said, the last fifteen minutes ago is an emotional rollercoaster, so that somewhat makes up for it.

Overall, Better Off Zed is absolutely worth checking out. While it will definitely appeal to zombie/horror fans, it’s not overly bloody or gory, so non-horror fans will be able to enjoy it too, thanks to the excellent writing and acting.

Better Off Zed is available now on iTunes, Amazon, Googleplay, and DirecTv.
Also available at retailers such as Target, Walmart and Best Buy.

FlixChatter Review: Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)


Review by Vitali Gueron

Fahrenheit 11/9 might be Michael Moore’s best movie since he made and released Fahrenheit 9/11 back in 2004. What Fahrenheit 9/11 did for millions of frustrated liberals living a Bush-era world where their democracy is threatened by a failed and dangerous presidency, this film plays on similar fears and frustrations of liberals living in the scarier and even more dangerous presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Michael Moore starts of by recounting the 2016 election, the nomination of Hillary Clinton who became the first woman to accept a major U.S. political party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the rise of reality television star and read estate tycoon Donald Trump. Moore was never a fan of Clinton, and made no attempt to hide his contempt for her in this movie.

Moore showed Clinton’s rise through the Democratic Party’s nomination process, the challenge for the nomination made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and the seemingly undemocratic use of “superdelegates” by the Democratic National Committee help Clinton ascend to the nomination. He made sure to mention the case of West Virginia’s 2016 Democratic Primary, where Clinton lost every county in the state to Bernie Sanders.

A political analysis done by NBC News showed that Sanders victory was partially a rejection of the Obama administration’s own coal policies, but he was also helped by large numbers of Republican cross-over voters. Their own polling showed that thirty-nine percent of Sanders voters stated that they actually planned to vote for Donald Trump over Sanders in the November general election. Yet, Moore decided to leave out these facts, but rather conclude that while Clinton lost West Virginia’s pledged delegates 11-18 in favor of Sanders, all eight un-pledged delegates voted for Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, meaning the West Virginia delegation voted for Clinton over Sanders by one. There was an outright rejection of Bernie Sanders by the Democratic National Committee and not by the pledged delegates, according to Michael Moore in Fahrenheit 11/9 which can be seen as Moore’s attempt to advocate for his own preferred candidate — Bernie Sanders.

Once Clinton won the Democratic Party’s nomination and Donald Trump was able to knock of all of his Republican challengers to win the Republican Party’s nominator, Moore argues that Clinton made use of tiny bumper stickers and card board cutout of her to send across the country while Trump used the national media to televise all of his rallies, having them wait for him sometimes for hours upon end, with wall-to-wall coverage of the candidate, who bullied them for not showing his large crowd sizes or dismissing him as not a serious candidate. The local Minnesota connection in the movie comes when Moore shows an interview of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison in 2015 saying on ABC’s “This Week” that Donald Trump could be leading the Republican ticket in 2016, to which the other guests laugh him off and host George Stephanopoulos saying “I know you don’t believe that.” Well, Keith Ellison was correct in his prediction and even Michael Moore himself predicted on Bill Maher’s show, four months before the 2016 election that Donald Trump would win in 2016.

Moore criticizes Trump for talking about extending his presidency beyond the eight-year limit. Moore argues that Trump loves the dictators such as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and says of China’s President Xi Jinping that “He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great.” Fascism, Moore and Maher agree, “happens in little increments.”

While Fahrenheit 11/9 is a very somber and thoughtful movie, it lacks some important factual context. For example, Moore does little to mention that Russian meddling in our elections and their hacking of the DNC and Clinton campaigns in 2016. He doesn’t bring up the Russian’s government’s use of Facebook and other social media to spread fake news stories to make Hillary Clinton look bad and Donald Trump look good. He also doesn’t talk about the ramifications of disgruntled Bernie Sanders voters not voting in 2016 or Green Party nominee Jill Stein’s attempts to corral these voters for her own benefit. To Moore, these two figures had little or no impact on Clinton’s loss and Moore squarely places the blame for Trump’s win on a “rigged system.” Most surprisingly, Moore talks about Trumps’ win in the Electoral College but doesn’t provide the raw, startling numbers: 65,853,514 million people voted for Hillary Clinton while only 62,984,828 voted for Donald Trump. This is a net difference of over 2.8 million people who voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The most touching moment in the documentary comes when Parkland, Florida High School student Emma Gonzalez reads off the names of the students who perished in the mass shooting at her school during the March For Our Lives rally. Emma says that no-one could comprehend the aftermath of the shooting or how far it’s devastating effects would reach. For those who still can’t comprehend the gravity of the effects because they refuse to, Emma tells them that their six minutes and 20 seconds with an AR-15 went straight into the ground six feet deep. After she reads off the names of her lost classmates and what they would never do again, she pauses and stares straight into the camera, as if she were looking inside your soul for any humanity you had left.

Have you seen Fahrenheit 11/9? Well, what did you think? 

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST announces a star-studded 2018 lineup!

TCFF announces a diverse and inspiring lineup of films for their 2018 festival, to be held October 17-27 at Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End with ICON•X. Coming off of a successful September Gala that honored Steve Zahn with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Rachel Mairose from Secondhand Hounds with the Changemaker Award, this year’s festival will officially open their ninth year with Peter Farrelly’s Green Book (November 21, Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures).

When Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

Green Book recently won the Toronto International Film Festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award this past week! Producer Jim Burke, Academy Award nominee for “The Descendants,” will be attending.

Opening night festivities will also include a screening of Time for Ilhan, a documentary about State Representative and Federal House candidate, Ilhan Omar, who will be in attendance along with director Norah Shapiro and cinematographer Chris Newberry.

The Centerpiece Highlight on Friday, October 19 is the Newport Beach Film Festival hit comedy When Jeff Tried to Save the World starring Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite). Heder and director Kendall Goldberg will be in attendance. United Skates, a documentary about roller skating and a community’s battle to save an underground subculture will close out the festival on October 27, with producer and Minnesota native Tiffany Fisher-Love in attendance.

Other visiting guests this year include David Arquette and Tom Arnold with the U.S. premiere of Saving Flora, the story of a 14-year-old girl who kidnaps an elephant from a circus to take it to a nature reserve, screening on October 22. Chef Andrew Zimmern will also be in attendance on Thursday, October 25 for the Midwest premiere of Chef Flynn, a documentary about a ten-year-old who transformed his living room into a supper club and achieved sudden fame.

TCFF is also thrilled to feature Widows (20th Century Fox) a modern-day thriller from Steve McQueen starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Melissa McCarthy, Boy Erased (Focus Features) starring Joel Edgerton and Nicole Kidman and The Favourite (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

In addition to their regular programming this year, TCFF is pleased to collaborate with the Jewish Film Festival and the Northstar Science Film Festival, showing a slate of thought provoking films while launching a brand new initiative, TCFF Tech. TCFF Tech is a one-of-a-kind 3-day event spotlighting the impact of technology on social issues, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

I’ll post the complete schedule later with some of my most-anticipated selections!

Tickets are on-sale this weekend for TCFF Members and will be open to the public next week beginning Friday, September 28th, 2018. Ticket prices are $12 for General Admission & $20 for Gala Tickets.

Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $50 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $80 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $120 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Gala Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Gala Film); and the All Access Pass – $500 (Guaranteed seat in premiere row at ANY screening +more!).

To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit the newly-redesigned twincitiesfilmfest.org


Oh and as if great films aren’t enough for the 11-day festivities, check out the amazing lineup of FREE EDUCATIONAL events!!

So yeah, TCFF 2018 can’t come soon enough!

FlixChatter Review: Peppermint (2018)


Director: Pierre Morel
Writer: Chad St. John
Running Time: 1h 42min

Review by: Vitali Gueron

Jennifer Garner makes her return to the action genre with the movie Peppermint, directed by Taken director Pierre Morel. After many years of male stars exacting revenge on criminals (think Liam Neeson in the Taken franchise), it now became Garner’s turn to just that, but unfortunately the whole setup by now has become tired and overused. Despite a well-acted and very committed performance by the lead actress, Peppermint unfortunately is a very forgettable and rather bland action movie that leaves almost no impressions with the audience.

Garner plays wife and mother Riley North, who we find out early on is a very committed mother and isn’t afraid to take on other parents who try to come between her and her daughter. When Riley and her husband Chris (Jeff Hephner) turn to plan B after their daughter’s birthday party doesn’t go as planned, they decide to cheer up their daughter Carly’s (Cailey Fleming) spirits with a spontaneous trip to a Christmas Fair for some fun and ice cream.

When asked what ice cream flavor young Carly wanted, she asked for – you guessed it – Peppermint. Before leaving the fair, husband Chris called up his friend Mickey (Chris Johnson) to inform him that he was pulling out of a proposed robbery job that would see him make a lot of money but potentially risking his family’s well-being. Unfortunately, the drug kingpin they wanted to steal from, Diego Garcia (Juan Pablo Raba) learns about their plans and decides to move first.

Already having taken care of Mickey, Diego sends his gang thugs to follow the family at the fair, and shockingly gun down both Chris and Carly in front of Riley. Due to massive corruption in the criminal justice system, Chris and Carly’s killers are allowed to walk free, while the judge forces Riley to be institutionalized in a psychological care ward. Riley escapes and for the next five years she falls off the grid, only to return when she’s ready to bring the murderers to justice on her terms.

This is where the movie goes off the deep end, with Riley taking out everyone from Chris and Carly’s killers (leaving them hanging with their feet tied up off a Farris wheel) to the judge who freed their killers and tried to institutionalize her (by blowing up his house with him inside). Meanwhile LAPD detectives Stan Carmichael (John Gallagher Jr.) and Moises Beltran (Ray Ortiz) are on Riley’s trail and unsurprisingly to the viewers, one of the detectives is good while the other is bad and is working with drug kingpin Diego Garcia and his gang members. Neither one of the supporting actors are memorable or given any substantial material to work with. The rest of the villains are faceless cartel and gang members who are trying to track down Riley before she causes any more problems for their operation and neutralize drug kingpin Diego Garcia.

While Peppermint does have some strong action sequences, there isn’t one single sequence that stands above the rest as the sequence everyone will be talking about after the end. If you’re a die-hard Jennifer Garner fan, you may enjoy this movie more than I did, but I will only remember this movie as a failed attempt to bring back the revenge thriller genre with the hopes that miss Garner can do what many before her could not. It won’t be long before this revenge thriller is also forgotten.

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