TCFF Day 2: Nowhere Boy Review

The Twin Cities Film Fest continues!

I didn’t sign up to volunteer Wednesday night, so right after work, hubby and I headed downtown to see the John Lennon childhood biopic Nowhere Boy. Playing at the same time on AMC Theater 1 was Phasma Ex Machina, which was attended by its director Matt Osterman. Machina is Osterman’s feature film debut, the film explores the gray area between life and death and how science may be the bridge between the two. From the film’s official blog, we’ve got a quick snippet from the Star Tribune’s film critic Colin Covert who had some real nice things to say about it: “Stephen King would love “Phasma Ex Machina” (“The Ghost in the Machine”). This sharply intelligent Minnesota-made sci-fi drama centers on a young technical savant and the device he builds to enable his late parents’ spirits to return home. Unaware that they have passed, several ghosts enter into complicated emotional and ethical relationships with the orphans and widowers they left behind. Writer-director Matt Osterman neatly combines creepy effects with understated details (the tinkerer gets most of his apparatus from the Ax Man). A few inconsequential rough edges aside, this is a winner.

Check out the trailer from the official TCFF page, definitely something worth checking out once it’s out on dvd.

Nowhere Boy


I was pretty excited to see Nowhere Boy. Partly because I was intrigued by the story of music legend John Lennon, as we both share an unconventional upbringing without a father and inconsistent presence of our real mother. The other reason was Aaron Johnson, who impressed me in Kick-Ass that I pretty much wanted to see everything else he’s in from now on. I had no idea he was in The Illusionist until my friend Ted pointed out to me afterward, apparently he played the young version of Ed Norton’s character in the flashback scenes. In any case, I don’t know if this movie ever played here in the Cities, as it was released late last year in the UK.

Well, the film—and Aaron—definitely didn’t disappoint, even the slight projector snafu at the beginning of the film didn’t dampen the great experience of watching this movie. I’ve done a bit of research about the movie to know this isn’t a Beatles biopic, and though there were scenes of the teenage John and Paul McCartney playing music together, this is really a story about John’s childhood (roughly from 15-18 years old) when he was living with his aunt Mimi, played brilliantly by the always-reliable Kristin Scott Thomas.

John with Mimi and with his real mother Julia

The movie focuses on the ‘nowhere boy’ who’s lost as to where he really belongs. Mimi is so strict and seemingly devoid of emotion, though in the course of the movie you realize the opposite is true. Contrast that with the character of John’s real mother, the bohemian and tempestuous Julia who seems like the ‘perfect’ mother. She didn’t mind that John was suspended from school, instead she took him to an amusement park, introduce him to music and dance, basically living the good life, homework and responsibilities be darned. Now, what kid wouldn’t want to have a mother like that? Plus, Julia seemed to be the perfect ‘substitute’ for the jovial uncle George whom he was closest to.

Sam Taylor-Wood & Aaron Johnson

First-time director Sam Taylor-Wood depicted the opposite personalities with aptitude, and as the audience we can’t help but sympathize with both characters despite their flaws. The only thing that made me uneasy at times is the way Taylor-Wood filmed the scenes between Julia and John. If I had just come into the movie blind without knowing what the movie is about, I’d think that Julia was John’s cougar lover and not his mother! Especially the part when she laid down on her back on top of John in the couch, there was definitely that creepy Oedipus complex thing going on. I’m sure I’m not the only one as my hubby thought the same thing!

All around performances are terrific, especially Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff as Julia (a bit of trivia, Duff is James McAvoy’s real-life wife). They portrayed such complex characters with finesse and effortlessness, making them much more than one-dimensional roles. But the movie truly belongs to Aaron Johnson, who carries this movie with his melancholic blue eyes and endearing swagger. Taylor-Wood shot so many dreamy close-up shots of the then 19-year-old it could equal a personal home video 😉 Johnson’s definitely got movie star quality, he possesses the kind of screen presence so magnetic it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. I can’t judge whether he delivered an accurate portrayal of Lennon as I don’t really follow the singer’s career. For that I turn to my pal Becky who’s a huge Beatle fan:

Ok, so keep in mind these thoughts about Nowhere Boy are coming from someone who’s favorite Beatle was John Lennon, seen a Hard Day’s Night over and over (see it if you haven’t), and it was just five years after the movie ends when I was scream ing for the Beatles like the Elvis fans were screaming for him just like the scene in the movie (I was 10.) I really was looking forward to seeing this time in John’s life because I had heard he was raised by an aunt, but that’s really all I knew. The film fills in all the blanks.
I was totally blown away by Aaron Johnson’s performance of John. He so resembled him in looks, speech, body language and attitude that he is in the same league as Jamie Foxx (Ray), Joaquin Phoenix (Johnny Cash in Walk the Line) and Will Smith (Ali). I’m afraid he won’t get the same kind of recognition, but certainly deserves it for his role here.
And at the very end of the film, a caption said that John didn’t forget to call his Aunt Mimi from Hamburg, and called her every week for the rest of HIS life. And after seeing this film, I truly believed he really did.

As I talked to a few people after the movie’s done, everyone unanimously praised this movie. Lennon definitely has a story worth-telling and it’s nice to learn how the boy became the legend he’s known today. My colleague Laura’s boyfriend Marcus regards the movie “emotionally exhilarating… just like Lennon’s music.” Here’s a quick snippet of his ‘review’: Joy, sadness, sympathy, humor were just some of the emotions you will feel from the beginning of the film to it’s end. It’s amazing that John Lennon was such an advocate of peace when he experienced so much sadness  Whether you’re a music fan, a Beatle fan or a film buff, you will enjoy the untold visualization of John Lennon. This movie is a must see!

Indeed, I’m glad TCFF screens this one as this movie was totally worth going to the cinema for!

Have you seen Nowhere Boy? What did you think of the movie?

Guest Post: Waiting for Superman Mini Review

As promised, here’s the Waiting for Superman mini review. For mini-coverage of the event itself, check out this post.

Special thanks to my guest blogger Ted S. for taking the time to write this concise and straightforward review!

I think most people who are interest in seeing this documentary know what it’s all about so I won’t go into explaining the story. I thought the film was good, it was well directed and I learned a few new things when it comes to the educational system in the US. You’ll get to know some of the families who want their kid to get a better education and by the end of the movie, you really feel for some of the families whose kids didn’t get drafted to go to these boarding schools.

The film jumps from telling the story of these families to the politics of the education system in our country. To me the film seemed to put all the blames on the system. That is my problem with the film, it was so one-sided and it tends to get a bit preachy towards the end. To me, a good documentary needs to tell the story from both sides, in this one we only hear from the poor families and how bad the system is. I’m no expert in educational system nor do I know how it works, that’s why I wish the filmmaker would go deeper into it. The film seems to have more questions than answers; but maybe that’s the point of the movie.

I do recommend the film, you might get angry at how bad the educational system is in this country or you might think it’s just another propaganda film from the leftists. I’d leave that up to you to decide.

Director: Davis Guggenheim
Runtime: 111 Minutes


Has anyone else seen this documentary? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

TCFF Day 1: Waiting for Superman Premiere

Hello everyone, happy Wednesday! I wrote this post last night right after I got back from my volunteer shift at the Theaters at Mall of America. First let me say it was a blast! The place was buzzin’ and burstin’ with people which is awesome to see. Nice to see such a great turnout and the energy of the place was really lively.

Ok, so here’s my account of being a first time film festival volunteer (photos from the event to follow):

My pal Becky and I arrived late afternoon and shortly after checking-in at the festival’s table, we got our volunteer shirts. I was really in a cheerful mood last night, which always helps. I was so looking forward to this event that volunteering wasn’t a chore at all. In fact, I had a lot of fun meeting new people who share my passion for movies. Plus, the festival staff are such affable bunch. Even Jatin Setia, the brain behind this whole thing, whom you’d think would be in frantic mode, was still his genial self as he was practically pulled every which way by everyone.

After waiting around for a bit, we’re finally given our assignment to greet people as they step off the escalator into the theater and hand them the festival’s schedule. About half of the people had no idea there was a film festival going on, as when I greeted them with ‘welcome to the Twin Cities Film Festival,’ they kind of had this weird look on their face. Most of them were very receptive though, and they seemed genuinely interested as they glance through the pamphlet we gave them.

We did encounter a few somewhat disgruntled moviegoers who thought they could just show up at the theater without having any form of ticket whatsoever. They said the media (I think they mentioned the paper specifically, they didn’t say which one) told them to do so. Not sure how they got that info as the TCFF website already had a big SOLD OUT graphical notice on the documentary page. Hmmm…

About a half hour later, I spotted the man of the hour, Waiting for Superman director Davis Guggenheim riding up the escalator. I recognized him right away so when he stepped off I greeted him and he shook my hand. He looked much younger than I thought, but had the same his hairstyle and dark-rimmed glasses as he’s often photographed. I managed to tell him how much everyone were so eager to see his movies and on top of having a sold-out premiere, there were more people who couldn’t get in. “They’d have to see it on Friday then,” he replied as he walked away to head to the red carpet area. The documentary is released on limited engagement at the Uptown Theater October 1st. So that was that, I didn’t get a chance to ask him any question 😦 By the way, I had absolutely no idea the St. Louis native was married to actress Elisabeth Shue until I read his bio on IMDb for this post!

I had wished to ask Mr. Guggenheim a question which is actually from my boss Mary: When you’re doing a documentary like this, what would you like the audience to do after watching it? Well, as I didn’t get to attend the Q&A (even though I was right outside the door with a few other staff members), I poked around the documentary’s official site and this ‘Take Action’ page pretty much answered that question. The tag line emblazoned on the page says: IT”S POSSIBLE. TOGETHER WE CAN FIX EDUCATION. There is a What You Can Do section divided by Parents | Teachers | You which tells each member of the group what they can do to improve the education system where they live.

Well, I’m just going to wrap up by saying the event was quite a smashing success. Of course I don’t have any other film festival to compare it to, but considering this is the first year, to have a sold-out show on opening night is pretty darn good! Moviegoers and staff alike were invited to celebrate Opening Night after the film at the CRAVE Restaurant. I’d think the movie would spark stimulating conversations, so what better way than to do that than over delicious drinks and tasty snacks. I’d have stayed and enjoy it too if I don’t have to work in the morning… besides, if I partied all night, I wouldn’t have any time to write this post right? 😀

In any case, check out the mini review courtesy of my friend Ted who saw it last night.

First annual Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off tonight: 5 flicks I’m excited to see

The first ever Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) kicks off with a bang tonight with the critically-acclaimed film Waiting for “Superman” and an appearance from Academy Award®-winning director and producer Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The tickets are sold out for this, so it looks like it’s going to be a bustling and festive evening at the Mall of America! I’m scheduled to volunteer for a few hours, but hopefully I could get a glimpse of the film in between breaks. But if not, I might try catch it once it opens (exclusively) at the Landmark Uptown theatre starting Friday, October 1.

I’m hoping to see at least 4-5 films during the festival, but we’ll see if that’s possible given my work and volunteering schedule. For sure I’m going to see Nowhere Boy on Wednesday night. The movie chronicles John Lennon’s childhood, covering the time when he met Paul McCartney and how that leads to forming the Beatles. It boast a great British cast of Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Lennon, Kristin Scott Thomas as his aunt Mimi, Anne-Marie Duff and David Morrissey. Critics embrace Sam Taylor Wood’s directing debut, the film’s got 84% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer definitely got me intrigued:

It’s playing Wednesday 9/29, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15 (downtown Minneapolis). Tickets are still available at the film page on TCFF website.

After my shift on Friday night, I hope to catch Secretariat. It’s another movie based on a true story of the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time. It stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich and James Cromwell. It looks like a good ‘ol rousing entertainment about triumphing against all odds. It’s playing Friday, 10/1, 7:00pm @ AMC Block E 15, which is one week ahead of the nationwide release date!

The other three I’m hoping to catch are:

The Two Escobars 9/29, 5:00pm | Theatres at Mall of America
When my soccer aficionado colleague Scot told me about the story I was intrigued.

Pablo Escobar was the richest, most powerful drug kingpin in the world, ruling the Medellin Cartel with an iron fist. Andrés Escobar was the biggest soccer star in Colombia. The two were not related, but their fates were inextricably–and fatally–intertwined.

Hollywood Reporter had some nice things to say about the documentary, saying that “…One doesn’t have to be a sports fan to respond to this true tale of soccer, politics, organized crime and murder” and a 8.9 IMDb user rating.

World’s Largest 9/29, 9:30pm & 10/2, 1:30pm | AMC Block E 15
I’m even more curious to see this after exec-director Jatin Setia said this was one of his favorite films he’s seen at the festival. Sounds like a whimsical and cheerful movie that’s guaranteed to put a smile on people’s faces.

Desperate for tourism, hundreds of small towns across the U.S.A. claim the “world’s largest” something from 15-foot fiberglass strawberries to 40-foot concrete pheasants. Odd, funny and sometimes beautiful, the statues stand as testaments to the uniqueness and importance – the largeness – that all people feel, and need to feel, about their communities and their own existence.

10/2, 7:00pm | AMC Block E 15
On closing night on Saturday, I might try to catch this one after my volunteer shift is done. This movie won’t be released nationwide until November 5, so it’s cool that TCFF got it a month in advance! Now please don’t confuse this with the Cindy Crawford crapfest of the same name. This one is a political-thriller based on the autobiography of real-life undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. According to, this is the only film from an American director in competition at Cannes, and the indie blog also has great things to say about director Doug Liman’s (Bourne Ultimatum) casting of Naomi Watts: “Watts is finely-tuned as Plame, a woman who tells lies for her country with ease but agonizes over speaking the truth for her own benefit.”

Now, I don’t always leap up to see this type of political thriller, nor am I the biggest Sean Penn fan (read: not really). But I like Naomi Watts, she is one darn good actress and the story sounds pretty intriguing. How accurate it really is to what actually happens I’ll never know, but hey, it sure makes for a compelling thriller and that is what I look for in this movie.

Check out other films offered @ TCFF, there bounds to be something that interest you. Look for my continued coverage of TCFF in the coming days!

Has anybody seen any of these films? If so, do share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Counting down to TCFF: Interview with executive director Jatin Setia

On Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege to volunteer at the TCFF promo booth at the downtown AMC theater. I was actually looking forward to it, and it helps that I had all this energy after my Zumba class. It was fun chatting with fellow volunteers as we hand out the festival’s schedules and tell moviegoers about this upcoming event. Speaking of which, all of you TwinCities readers, have you got your tickets yet? No? Well, what are you waiting for? Click on the TCFF banner on the right sidebar or click here to get your tickets, pronto!

After my shift was done, I ran into the affable executive director Jatin Setia (whom I had met at a video shoot months earlier) and he kindly granted me an impromptu interview right on the spot! Btw, did you see him on the Sunday edition of the StarTribune‘s Entertainment page? I told him I have only five questions, but he was so gracious and easy to talk to that before I know it, I ended up asking him more questions 😀

Take a listen of the entire 10-minute interview by hitting the PLAY button below (sorry I don’t have time to write down the transcript). And pardon my interviewing skills, haven’t done this since my news broadcasting class back in college!

Special thanks to Mr. Setia for taking a time out of his hectic schedule to talk to me!

Random Thoughts: Who should Christopher Nolan pick as SUPERMAN reboot director?

It’s hard to argue that Marvel’s been getting a leg up on DC with their movie adaptations, despite the comic company owning two of the biggest superhero franchises: Batman and Superman. British auteur Christopher Nolan could very well be regarded as a DC hero of sort the fact that he pretty much ‘rescued’ the Batman franchise from the pit that was Batman & Robin, practically the worst superhero movie of all time.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the son of Krypton and have the most respect for Nolan, so imagine my excitement when I first heard that Warner Bros asked him to be a mentor of sort on the The Man of Steel reboot. Then a month later came news that his frequent collaborator David Goyer came up with his dream vision of the über superhero. At the time, it seemed like the project is still so far away in our horizon, but perhaps it’s getting closer now that Nolan is currently shopping for a director to helm the franchise. The reason for the rush probably has a lot to do with the fact that DC will soon lose 50 percent of the  franchise’s copyright due to the notice filed by the heirs of the late Superman creator Jerry Siegel (per

Deadline reported Thursday that Superman producers Chris Nolan and [his wife and business partner] Emma Thomas are getting closer to resuscitating the Man of Steel… they have begun meeting with a short list of directors for the job of directing [the movie]…” The Superman reboot is slated to open Christmas 2010, whilst Batman 3 is scheduled to open right smack dab in the Summer Blockbuster month of July, 2012. Reportedly, Nolan and his team will have to select a director to helm the project and make their case in front of the studio before the project is to move forward.

So who made the list?

  • Tony Scott (Top Gun, Spy Game, Enemy of the State, Deja Vu)
  • Matt Reeves (Cloverfield, Let Me In)
  • Jonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning)
  • Duncan Jones (Moon)
  • Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen)

My first reaction was to go with Snyder, as he’s quite a visionary director known for creating a visually-stunning film that combine highly-saturated color schemes with dynamic, high-octane action sequences. The former advertising commercials directors have won numerous Clio awards and he’s already got quite a few of buzz-worthy films under his belt despite his relatively short stint as a film director. The guy knows how to make killer trailers and has the ability to get a rousing response from audience at ComicCon. But after talking with one of my blog collaborators Ted S. (who’ve brought you the vision-to-film posts), I realize that perhaps all that razzle-dazzle visual feast isn’t enough to make up a truly worthy Superman film. So below is Ted’s rationale as who should get the job:

Out of all the directors from that list, I’d vote for Duncan Jones. Why? Well because I believe his style of filmmaking is very similar to Nolan’s. Just check out his first feature length Moon, it was very low budget film but yet with his direction and visual style, the film looked like it cost $30mil instead of $5mil to make. Also, the film dealt with identity and loneliness, isn’t that what Superman storyline has been about? Since we don’t know what the plot of the new Superman film is about, maybe Jones can bring us a new version of Superman like we’ve never seen before, just like what Nolan did when he introduced us to his version of Batman. Jones can probably tackle the issue of being the only super human in the world and how he feels being so isolated and yet people relies on him to save them. Whoever they choose to play the new Man of Steel, I truly believe Jones can bring out a great performance out of that actor. Sam Rockwell was pretty great in Moon.

As for the other directors, I’m not familiar with Liebesman’s or Reeves’ work. Reeves directed Cloverfield a couple of years ago, I refuse to watch that movie because I don’t care for that kind of storytelling. Liebesman’s resume is not too impressive either, although his upcoming Battle: Los Angeles looks pretty interesting.

I know that many will vote for Zack Snyder but I just don’t think he’s a good story teller; he’s great at making things blow up and can direct big action sequences. To me Snyder is more of a YES MAN type of director, you give him a script and he’ll follow it page for page, i.e. 300 and Watchmen.

Lastly, we have Tony Scott, I believe he’s run out of creative ideas when it comes to his directing style. If you saw the last couple of his films, you’ll notice that he had repeated his style from his earlier work. If you don’t believe me, watch the shootout scene near the end of Déjà Vu and then watch a shootout scene from his earlier film, The Last Boy Scout. Or watch Enemy of State then Domino, you’ll see the similarities in those films.

For this new reboot of Superman, I believe they should go with a director who not only can create great visual effects but one who can bring out the character of Clark Kent/Superman. Again, my vote goes to Duncan Jones, if you haven’t seen Moon yet, please give a rent, you won’t be disappointed.

Well, after reading his astute assessment, I think Ted has a really valid point about choosing Duncan Jones, and I’m even more curious to watch Moon now. Now your turn, readers. Who would you pick to helm the next Superman reboot?

Flix Poster of the Week: DUE DATE

HAPPY FRIDAY all! I realize I haven’t had a poster post for a while, and when I came across this horizontal quad style poster, I knew I had to blog about it. I thought these are hilarious and eye-cathy. Can’t say the same about the trailer though, which is somewhat devoid of laughter IMO.

Poster courtesy of

The plot: High-strung father-to-be Peter Highman is forced to hitch a ride with aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay on a road trip in order to make it to his child’s birth on time.

I don’t quite get the appeal of Zach Galifianakis and even Robert Downey Jr. can’t help entice me to see the movie, yes even in spite of his searing hotness (as my friend Sam astutely noted in her weekend musing). Man, RDJ is like fine wine isn’t he? I first saw him in Less Than Zero (or was it The Pick Up Artist?) back in the 80s, but he hasn’t changed that much 20+ years later!! The guy is 45, yet still hotter than ever and is it just me or does he seem to have fuller hair?? I mean, that guy should be in shampoo commercials!

In any case, I’m finally going to see The Town tonight, looking forward to it after hearing all the positive reviews! With all this rain, it’s perfect moviegoing weather. How about you, what movies are you going to see this weekend?