SEPTEMBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

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Autumn is in the air! It’s been a rather cool September, especially the past week, but I LOVE the crisp Fall air as the leaves are turning. In fact we’re going to drive up north this weekend to see some gorgeous Fall foliage.

Well September have been quite eventful, thanks to Twin Cities Film Fest special screening of the indie drama The Trouble With the Truth. It was so fun to get to meet (and interview) Lea Thompson and director Jim Hemphill. The film is available on Amazon Prime and it’s got a stellar reviews, so check it out!

Here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

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Queen of Katwe

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Bridget Jones Baby

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The Trouble With The Truth

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The Man Who Knew Infinity

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Sully

The Nice Guys

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Elvis & Nixon

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The Dressmaker

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The Birth Of A Nation

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The Magnificent Seven


October press screenings include The Girl On The Train, The Accountant, The Space Between Us, and Certain Women. Oh and of course a slew of films screening at TCFF! So excited about the lineup this year, so I’ll definitely be watching a ton of great films in October!


I’ve been working on a list of films by female directors I can’t wait to see, so be on the lookout for that in the next couple of weeks!


 Rewatches

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) | Jane Eyre (2011)
The Saint (1997) | Phantom of the Opera (2004) | Belle (2014)
Beauty & The Beast (1991)| Le Soleil Noir (Louis XV doc, 2009)

Naturally most of my re-watches revolves period dramas 😀

My hubby got me the 25th Anniversary edition of Beauty & The Beast so of course I watched it as soon as it arrived in the mail. It made me look forward to the 2017 live action version even more just to see how they’d pull it off!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

Queen of Katwe

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This film is such a pleasant surprise. A based-on-a-true-story that’s uplifting and inspiring and so full of heart, yet it’s not afraid to show the darkness of the protagonist’s story. My full review will be up next week!


Well that’s my viewing recap of September. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Twin Cities Film Fest (Oct 19-29): The 2016 lineup is here!

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The Twin Cities Film Fest (TCFF) is thrilled to announce its captivating and critically-lauded lineup for the 2016 festival. The 11-day marathon, running October 19 – October 29 and showcasing 100+ films, will for the first time expand to a second city; in addition to its core screenings and red carpet parties at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, the 7th annual TCFF will also feature a second screening series at the IFP Theater in St. Paul.

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Kate Nowlin – Blood Stripe

This year’s Opening Night film, Blood Stripe, is sponsored by Stephanie Dillon and will launch TCFF’s 2016 Social Cause: Military Veteran Mental and Physical Support. This locally-filmed PTSD drama directed by Remy Auberjonois, starring Kate Nowlin and top prize winner at the Los Angeles Film Festival, is a story of the trials and tribulations facing a returned female combat veteran and her intense battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Four other veteran-related films have been selected to screen as part of TCFF’s “Changemaker Series,” including IRON Will: Veterans’ Battle with PTSD, a Billy Bob Thornton-narrated documentary produced by Minnesota native Tim VandeSteeg that will make its world premiere at TCFF on Oct. 22.

The official 2016 Centerpiece will be the Sundance Film Festival hit The Eagle Huntress (narrated by Daisy Ridley), which follows Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl in Mongolia, as she trains to become the first female in 2,000 years to successfully hunt with a Golden Eagle. The true-life adventure screens Oct. 24.

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Just some of the great films playing this year!

Two of the mostly highly acclaimed films coming out of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival will be making their regional premieres at TCFF. The critical sensation Moonlight will be the TCFF Closing Night film on Oct. 29 — a coming-of-age story about a young man in Miami during the “War on Drugs” era who finds himself coping with a dysfunctional home life. The story of his struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love while grappling with his own sexuality, has been hailed by some critics as the year’s best screenplay.

Lion, also screening Oct. 29, is the story of 5-year-old Saroo who gets lost on a train which takes him thousands of kilometers across India, away from home and family. Saroo must learn to survive alone in Kolkata, before ultimately being adopted by an Australian couple. Twenty five years later, armed with only a handful of memories, his unwavering determination, and a revolutionary technology known as Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family and finally return to his first home.
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The festival will also include the family fantasy Trolls, the Michael Fassbender thriller Trespass Against Us, the Parker Posey comedy The Architect, the James Franco, Melissa Leo, Dominic Rains crime drama Burn Country and the documentaries My Scientology Movie, The Trans List and In Pursuit of Silence, which discovers that the second quietest place on Earth is a specially designed room in downtown Minneapolis.


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Tickets are now available for Members and Pass Holders. Tickets will open up to the general public this Friday, September 30th. To find out how to become a TCFF Member and for a full list of films playing at this year’s festival please visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

I’ll definitely be blogging more about TCFF in the coming weeks, especially in October leading up to the film fest itself!


Thoughts on 2016 TCFF lineup? Which of these movies have you been anticipating?

FlixChatter Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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The title of the film may sound like a superhero film but this indie drama is as far away from the ubiquitous genre as it can get. It made me think of The Sound of Music if Captain Von Trapp were to uproot his entire family to the Austrian Alps and homeschooled all his kids instead of hiring Maria.

Set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Ben Cash has been living off the grid with his six kids. The film opened with a deer hunting scene that’s quite graphic and intense, prompting the woman next to me to leave the theater and never came back. Perhaps she’s an animal lover or something, but I think it’s her loss that she missed out on this film because of it.

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It’s a provocative way to open a film, and an effective one as well as we get to see right away how Ben has raised his kids, Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai, with vigorous physical and mental training. They live their lives without any of the conveniences and daily luxuries most kids in modern society won’t be able to survive even for a day. Though the kids don’t follow common academic curriculum, they’re taught to be critical thinkers. Instead of playing video games or lying around listening to music all day, the Cash kids read books, play music, hunt for food, and actually spend time with each other.

It’s a really fascinating slice of an unorthodox life, anchored by a soulful yet physical role by Viggo Mortensen. There are numerous themes that are explored here. Parenting is a big one, and I think every parents (especially in America) would benefit from watching this. The scene when the Cash family visit their conventional aunt and uncle in the city (played by Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn), it shows a stark contrast of how their respective kids are brought up. The Cash kids are well-versed in the the Bill of Rights and know who Karl Marx is, while their cousins are far more knowledgeable about pop culture. If I were a parent, it certainly would make me ponder just how much (or I should say how little) kids are learning in school!

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Their lives take an unexpected turn with news of the death of Ben’s wife, Leslie. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that because that even it the catalyst to the journey the Cash family had to take. Ben didn’t spare their feelings when he revealed the news, and it’s certainly a poignant moment that’s beautifully portrayed. The Cash family have to leave their idyllic existence in order to attend Leslie’s funeral, and in the course of that journey, Ben is challenged with the idea what it really means to be a parent and brings into question all his philosophies/beliefs he’s taught his kids.

Now, one does not have to subscribe to his worldview to emphasize with Ben. I for one don’t see eye to eye with him on a spiritual level. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky Day. He also vehemently opposes Christian funeral traditions, claiming that his wife had become a Buddhist believer and would rather be cremated instead. Now, while one might admire Ben’s parenting style and what his kids accomplished, no doubt they’d run into issues given that they’ve lived such a sheltered life and away from society. The kids are respectful and bright, but lacking in common social graces. “You made us freaks!” one of the kids, Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), screamed at Ben. He’s got a point there and the film shows many examples of that. The scene where the eldest Bodevan (George MacKay) promptly proposes to a girl after kissing her at an RV campground is funny but rather sad as well. The film is peppered with funny and amusing moments, but a lot of the humor isn’t slapstick but laden with irony and poignancy.

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The themes of parenting and coming-of-age blend seamlessly, and in a way it’s a coming-of-age of sort for Ben as well as a father. The main conflict arises between Ben and his father in-law Jack (Frank Langella), who sternly opposes Ben’s way of life and how his grandchildren are raised. It seems at first that Jack is painted as the *villain* of the film that threatens to separate the kids from their father, but fortunately the film isn’t so simplistic. Liberal sensibilities seem to prevail here, but writer/director Matt Ross doesn’t present things in a formulaic way, and there’s a vast thought-provoking themes being explored here. He boldly presents a compelling yet flawed hero, and chose an absolutely perfect actor in Viggo to do the job.

He’s the epitome of intellectual free spirit, a Renaissance man who’s set in his ways. The intensely charismatic Viggo Mortensen bared all for the role, mentally and physically. I’d hope to see his name popping up in the Best Actor race come award season. There’s a rather amusing nude scene, made more hilarious by the reaction of the people who saw him being so nonchalant about it, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. The challenge to normalcy seems to be what the whole movie is about, and it certainly gives you plenty of food for thought.

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The movie works largely because of the talented cast. In addition to MacKay and Hamilton, we’ve got Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell as the talented young actors who play Ben’s children. Each have their moments to shine and you believe them as a close-knit family. The only thing I wish were explored a bit better is the relationship between Ben and Leslie. The only flashback scenes we get are mere glimpses of the two gazing lovingly at each other, which doesn’t reveal anything about Leslie’s mental condition or suicidal tendencies.

It’s been a couple of months since I saw Captain Fantastic, which was my JULY Movie of the Month AND it’s also one of my fave 2016 films so far. It’s a beautifully-shot film with panoramic shots of the Pacific Oceans and the Rocky Mountains region. Certainly a film that subscribe to the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination that really matters. It’s certainly one of the most eccentric films I’ve seen this year, both amusing and haunting, but definitely indelible.

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Have you seen ‘Captain Fantastic’? Let me know what you think! 

Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Nice Guys’ (2016)

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Hello all! It’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, what with the TCFF gala on Thursday and also the MN filmmakers interviews on Saturday. But it was a good kind of busy and definitely excited for the 2016 TCFF lineup this year!

me_remyOne of the filmmakers I interviewed was Remy Auberjonois, whose film Blood Stripe, starring his wife Kate Nowlin who also co-wrote the film, will have its regional premiere at TCFF. The film won US Fiction Award at 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival this past June.

I’m excited to see the film, and it’s extra special for me to meet Remy because he’s also playing one of my fave characters of all time, Col. Brandon, in The Guthrie Theater’s 2016 adaptation of Sense & Sensibility! He’s still sporting the 18th century mustache for the role 🙂

Well, I was so busy this past week I completely missed The Magnificent Seven‘s press screening last Monday, which I could’ve gone right after my dental appt. Oh well, my hubby & I will hopefully see it this Friday. I did finally watch this one…

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Ted has already reviewed it here, and I think I’d agree with the 3/5 rating. I’m not going to review it again so this is just my It’s pretty entertaining but overall it’s not a wholly memorable movie despite the competent two leads. Shane Black is known for writing the Lethal Weapon movies and his directorial debut was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so he’s definitely got a knack for buddy action comedies. I have to admit though, this one isn’t as good as those movies.

Interestingly enough, this project was apparently proposed as a TV series but the pilot was going nowhere. I could see it working w/ the right script and cast, as buddy action comedies seems quite popular on TV at some point. Casting Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as a mismatched pair of private investigators is inspired casting, and this is perhaps the first comedic role I’ve seen Gosling do. I’d say he succeeded, though I still don’t see what the fuss is about him. I just don’t think he’s that special of an actor, both in terms of looks and talent. Crowe on the other hand, has always been a supremely talented and versatile actor, and I’d love to see him do more comedic roles!

Overall the movie wasn’t as funny as I had thought, perhaps because the funniest bits (like these below) are already in the trailer!

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The tone of the movie is very light with zippy dialog, though at times the scenarios are overly silly that it was like a spoof or something. There’s also a surreal scene involving a giant bug smoking and talking in the back seat of their car just seems weird and doesn’t work as well as it could. The shootout at the end is quite bombastic, featuring another interesting casting of Matt Bomer, sporting a giant mole and bowl haircut, as the hitman hired by Kim Basinger‘s character. Some of the scenes with him seems deliberately over-the-top. Speaking of Basinger, well it’s a rather thankless role and she barely made any impact in the movie.

That said, I’m glad I finally watched it. If you like this action comedy genre, it’s definitely worth a watch. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night!

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Oh, I also rewatched one of my guilty pleasures, the 1997 action flick The Saint w/ Val Kilmer & Elisabeth Shue. It’s preposterous and corny but I still enjoyed it 😉


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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FlixChatter Interview with Lea Thompson on ‘The Trouble With the Truth’, career longevity in Hollywood and her directing debut

Though it hasn’t officially starts until October 19th, the festivities of Twin Cities Film Fest has begun! Last Wednesday I got the chance to meet Lea Thompson just before her MN theatrical premiere of her indie film The Trouble With The Truth. I got to meet both Lea and the film’s writer/director Jim Hemphill, here they are at red carpet that night:


I’ve posted my interview with its director Jim here if you haven’t read it yet. I’m glad MN film fans got to see the film on the big screen, and they did a Q&A afterwards.


Thanks to Dallas & Jake for the great shots!


Meeting Lea was definitely the highlight of my week! I was waiting for her at the Showplace ICON lounge waiting to talk with her and was chatting with a couple of people when she approached us. Being from Rochester, Minnesota, she certainly still has the warm Midwestern manner. It’s so lovely meeting her, I mean I grew up watching her films in the 80s… All The Right Moves, Back To The Future, Some Kind of Wonderful, etc.  It’s been three decades since her big break in Back To The Future, yet she still looks as beautiful and youthful as ever, she didn’t look a day over 35! But it’s her wonderful, warm personality that will make me a fan of hers forever.

Speaking of Back To The Future, that very movie was playing on one of the TVs right above us. How cool is that! So here’s the transcript of my interview with the Lea:

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Let’s talk about The Trouble With the Truth. I love your role as Emily. I find that as a female audience, I find that there are so few meaty roles for women out there. She’s not just the girlfriend, or the wife of so and so.

It definitely was a meaty part. When I got the script, I couldn’t put it down. I just couldn’t believe someone had written a part that interesting. I mean, her perspectives keep changing. At times it seems like a male perspective, and sometimes he’s got the more female [perspective]… So it’s very interesting which is like real life, because people often want to put us into little pigeonholes, but all of us are a lot more complicated than that. So it’s very rare to get great parts like that.

lea_sally_cabaretI’ve had four really great parts in my career. One is Lorraine from Back to the Future, this one [in The Trouble With the Truth, I’ve done Sally Bowles in Cabaret on Broadway, and also the role in a TV movie called The Substitute Wife. So those are my great parts.

I also think Amanda Jones in Some Kind of Wonderful is a pretty great part. I mean initially you think she is this way but she has a certain depth the more you get to know her in the movie.

Yeah, Some Kind of Wonderful is close, but not as great as those other four. I do love that movie.

It is timeless. As a lot of John Hughes’ movies are.

It is. People love it. People love the music, the costume, etc.


So back to The Trouble With the Truth. Is it because of the strong female role that made you want to sign on as producer?

Yeah. I helped cast it, I helped getting it together in some way. So yeah, I’m proud of that. I’m really proud of this film. Y’know, it’s hard to get films that weren’t made by studios to be seen by people, so it’s great to have these independent film festivals where they embrace it. They get people a chance to see it, talk about it, discover new filmmakers and meet new filmmakers. It’s so exciting and I’m so happy that the Twin Cities has a film festival now I spent time at the Guthrie, the Children’s Theater, MN Dance Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theater, the MN Orchestra is wonderful, so it’s great to see films celebrated too in MN.

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There’s a lot of dialog and long takes in this film. How do you approach a role like this? Was there any improvisation or ad lib at all?

There’s hardly any ad-lib, it’s all script. There’s only tiny bit parts when we got up and move to a different location, there’s a bit of improv there, but we stayed to the script. The process was that we rehearse every day for like 2 hours. I mean the shooting was fairly simple but the takes was like 12 minutes long. The takes was hard but it was fun. They had a camera on hand and a camera on me, so it was easier to improv things, not on the words but on how you act it. I can laugh in one take, and cry in another in the same place. So I don’t have to do the same things all the time.

I have to mention Caroline in the City which I love.

Oh thank you, thank you.

You worked on another TV series, Switched At Birth [on ABC Family], which was on fairly recently.

Yes, I’ve been doing that for the past five years. We still have 10 more episodes they’re going to air in January.

Is that season 6?

Yes and I directed the 100th episode which was really nice.

Between working in TV and movies, which one do you prefer?

Oh I’m happy to get whatever job I can get. I mean, I’m directing TV stuff, I’ll be directing The Goldbergs [ABC] in two weeks, and I’m also acting in Scorpion [CBS]. I also just finished my own independent film The Year of Spectacular Men.

I was just going to ask you about that.

So yeah, my daughter Madelyn Deutch wrote The Year of Spectacular Men, she also starred it in and scored it. My other daughter Zoey is starring in it along with myself. It’s a family project and I spent the last year doing that.

Lea with her daughters Madelyn (L) and Zoey (R). Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Is it too early to talk about the synopsis of it?

It’s about a young girl struggling to figure out what life is after graduating from college. So it’s a Millennial movie. It’s also a story about sisterhood, it’s a love story between two sisters and five horrible boyfriends. Something everybody can relate to.

Is your husband [Howard Deutch, who directed Lea in Some Kind of Wonderful] involved at all in this movie?

He’s a producer, but he doesn’t do too much. I kept him out of the way.

Now that you have two of your daughters in the business. What tips did you give them when they told you they wanted to act?

Well it’s an ongoing thing. I’m always giving them advice, I’m kind of their acting coach. Y’know, we’re kind of contemporaries, we’re at times doing the same job. I’ve been through what they’ve been through or what they’ll go through. I know the ups and down of the business, so it’s nice in that way. I think a lot of people like to hire children of people who have had some success as the kids know it’s work and you have to keep at it. You never just get your big break and everything’s gonna be great. Look, we’re doing an interview under Back to The Future playing on TV right now. I did that 31 years ago and I’m still out here handling my movie that I’m doing.

It’s a testament to your talent and the fact that you’re so prolific in the business!

It’s about the work. It’s not about the fame and all that stuff that’s fake. It’s all about the people you meet and get to meet, the audience. I mean without art, the world is gonna be a complete disaster. We need to make people compassionate, we need to make people feel things, to help people understand how another person live and not be so quick to judge. Artists and stories are super important and I feel that it’s a noble profession. I feel honored that I get to do this for 32 years… no actually I started my first ballet I did here in MN when I was 11. So it’s been 40+ years that I’ve been in the biz.


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THANK YOU so much Lea for taking the time to chat with me.
It’s such an honor and privilege meeting you!


Hope you enjoyed the interview! What’s your favorite Lea Thompson role(s)?

FlixChatter Review: The Light Between Oceans (2016)

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I have to admit I’m a bit of a sucker for romantic dramas. Not rom-coms, but a genuine heart-wrenching love story that’ll get me to cry my eyes out. Well, this film certainly fits into that category. Based on an Australian novel of the same name by M. L. Stedman, we’re first introduced to Tom Sherbourne, a World War I veteran. He resorts to taking a lonely job as a lighthouse keeper as he wants to be as far away from people as possible. He then meets a beautiful young girl Isabel Graysmark who’s drawn by his stoic, resigned demeanor. A courtship by correspondence slowly defrosts Tom’s heart and the two did get married. Off they go to live together in Janus Rock, a secluded island off the coast of Western Australia.

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The film takes a good sweet time to introduce us to Tom (a taciturn, reflective Michael Fassbender) and Isabel (the lovely Alicia Vikander). There’s a compelling realism to how their relationship and perhaps the fact that the two actors fell in love on set made their chemistry even more believable. But Tom and Isabel’s seemingly blissful union doesn’t last long. They’re driven to the point of despair after Isabel’s miscarriages, happening one after another. The two main actors convey the heartbreak believably, especially Isabel who was such a innocent, happy-go-lucky sweet girl when she first met Tom. Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance seems to have set up the long buildup to illustrate the mental state of the characters and so even though it was a s-l-o-w process, it didn’t feel tedious, at least to me.

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There’s something so ethereal yet mysterious about the setting at Janus Rock, the long lingering shots of the ocean and those big waves hit the rocks seem to hint of something ominous that’s about to happen. Sure enough, one day a rowboat carrying a baby and a lifeless man is adrift. Isabel sees it as a gift to their family, that the baby is hers to keep. Tom on the other hand, feels compelled to do the right thing. The moment the two contemplate this decision is quite heart-wrenching to behold. You know these characters are making a terrible decision that will haunt them in the end. At times I sympathize with them given what they’ve gone through, but towards the end it was quite frustrating.

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The emotional wallop and melodrama seems to be too much for some critics, the Rotten Tomatoes consensus says that it ‘… ultimately tugs on the heartstrings too often to be effective.’ I remember thinking that as I left the theater, that perhaps the film is a tad overly-manipulative, what with the decidedly somber scenery, sad faces and sad music. It made me recall a line from a Scottish rom-com where the protagonist is prone to ‘worshipping her own pain.’ I think you could say that about this film and the fact that there’s very little humor throughout, it can be overwhelming. I also feel that the scenes with the little girl seems rather trite as it didn’t feel true to me.

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That said, I actually think the film is made with care and the actors are committed to their roles. I also have to mention Rachel Weisz here, who appears midway through the film in a key role. This is the first Cianfrance film I’ve seen so far, but this isn’t the first time he deals with films about intense heartbreak (i.e. Blue Valentine). I can’t form an opinion yet about his skills as a filmmaker, but I think a bit less indulgence would do this film some good. At 2 hrs 13 minutes, the film drags quite a bit and trying your patience even those who are invested in the story. I think even if you’re a fan of Fassbender or Vikander, you might just wait to rent this later. One thing for sure, I’m even more impressed with the skills of the two actors and their performance made this film well worth my time.

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Have you seen ‘The Light Between Oceans’? Well what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: Blair Witch (2016)

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The original Blair Witch Project came out almost 20 years ago and it ignited the found-footage genre. Personally I was never a fan of the original movie or the genre itself. I found the concept to be idiotic and lacking creativity. Initially, I wasn’t that interested in seeing this sequel/remake but when I found out that it’s directed by Adam Wingard, I was curious. First it was titled The Woods, then a few weeks before its release date, the studio revealed that the movie’s actually a sequel to 1999 hit movie.

The setup of this new movie is basically the same as the original version. James (James McCune) discovered a video showing what he thinks is his sister’s experiences in the woods of the Blair Witch. So he and his friends Lisa (Callie Hernandez), Peter (Brandon Scott) and Ashley (Corbin Reid) decided to head out to the same location where his sister disappeared. They equipped themselves with more technology than the original group, each of them wears digital camera that’s attached to their ear and they also have a camera drone. Tagging along with them are two people who lives near the woods, Lane (Wes Robinson) and his girlfriend Talia (Valorie Curry).
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Of course once they go deep into the woods, weird things start happening. On their first night, they hear weird noises and then in the morning they see a bunch of Blair Witch sticks all around their campsite. Freaked out, they decide it would be a good idea not to spend another night in the creepy woods; they start to head back to their cars but got lost. They end up arguing with one another and more weird things start happening. So basically nothing new happened in this movie, if you’ve seen the first movie then you know what’s going to happen next.

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Adam Wingard’s previous two movies You’re Next and The Guest were very entertaining and I thought for sure he’d bring something new and creativity into this one. Sadly he just remade the original movie; there are no scares or surprises. For those hoping to see the evil witch, well you might not be disappointed. But by the time the real evil shows up, I just didn’t care and wanted the whole ordeal to be over with.

None of the actors stood out and clearly they’re all amateurs. If the actors in the original movie annoyed you, then you’re going to get annoyed by these guys too.

It’s very disappointing that the filmmakers didn’t come up with anything new since I believe they can expand the story and make it scary. I don’t remember much about the other sequel, Book of Shadows, but at least they tried to do something new with the myth of the Blair Witch.

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So have you seen Blair Witch? Well, what did you think?