FlixChatter Review: FINCH (2021)

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Films set in apocalyptic setting is quite popular in Hollywood and in FINCH we’ve got Tom Hanks in the title role as practically the last man on earth. He seems to be quite chirpy given living in a post-apocalyptic earth that has devastated the world’s civilization. He’s singing along to his favorite song as he and his dog-like robot Dewey, which is tasked to collect things when they scour abandoned warehouses or stores etc. searching for food and supplies. Within just a few minutes, we get an idea just how hazardous life has become for humans that he has to wear a protective UV suit and helmet to be outside. The air and atmosphere has become toxic and the suit also protects him against extreme heat.

As if that isn’t perilous enough, he also have to deal with unpredictable dust storms that could come at any moment. The opening scene shows Finch barely escaping the storm as he rides his truck to get home safely. The key to dystopian sci-fi movies is in world-building, that the filmmakers have to convince us of the treacherous condition at the end of the world. Director Miguel Sapochnik (most notably known for directing Game of Thrones’ penultimate sixth episode Battle of the Bastards), working on a script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell does that effectively and in an engaging way.

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When Finch reaches his makeshift home that resembles a lab in an abandoned warehouse, he’s greeted by his dog, an adorable brown Irish Terrier mix he named Goodyear. It’s quite an unusual name for a dog but later we learn more about how he first saw his beloved furry friend. The dust storm convinces Finch that he can’t stay in his home and must get to a safer location in order to survive. Well, his science & engineering skills has definitely come in handy for Finch, as he’s able to create these robots and other tools to help him survive the apocalypse. 

In many humans + robots movie, we usually just accept that the robots already exist, but I love that we’re shown how Finch builds his droid and his euphoric excitement when his creation finally does what he intends it to do. Jeff, voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, is absolutely delightful right from the start. The scenes when he first utter a word, answers Finch’s questions and learn to walk, etc. is wonderfully staged. The moment the robot comes up with a name for himself is both funny and moving, there’s something so earnest in Jeff’s child-like behavior that’s so endearing. 

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The second and third act is basically a road movie where Finch, Jeff and Goodyear travel together in a specifically-equipped RV to leave their home in St. Louis to San Francisco. What is in SF is explained later in the movie, but it’s not really important as I was already invested in their journey. Now, this is not a thriller or sci-fi horror, so people expecting some violent attacks or action-packed fight scenes with fellow earth survivors (or worse, aliens) will be disappointed. There is only one scary incident at an abandoned supermarket that’s told in flashback, which explains Goodyear’s origin story, but the gruesome bit is never shown. I actually like the fact that Finch is more of an existential drama and a story about relationships and what is meaningful to us in life.

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Despite the inherently distressing end-of-the-world topic and Finch’s terminal illness, the film’s tone is pretty light with plenty of humorous moments throughout the journey. The banters between Finch and Jeff are amusing but also reminds us what it means to be human. Jeff’s antics also provide levity and laugh-out-loud moments even when you know the droid is misbehaving. Despite looking very much like a droid with skeletal machinery, there are times where I wanted to give Jeff a hug given how human-like he’s become. The environmental message about global warming and taking care of our earth before it’s too late is obvious but also feels organic to the characters’ journey instead of being forced down our throats. One particular scene towards the end certainly makes me appreciate just being able to be outside and breathe fresh air without having to wear any protective gear.

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Hanks proves once again that he is such a charismatic actor that he could hold the audience’s interest all by himself.  I think a film like this definitely has to have an actor who is immensely watchable. At the same time, given the inherent similarities to the one-man-show of Castaway, I wonder what it would be like if they had cast a different actor with similar charisma and an every-man quality, perhaps Ben Mendelsohn? 

As Jeff the droid, Caleb Landry Jones is astounding. Hanks revealed in a recent interview that on top of providing the voice work, Landry Jones actually performed a lot of Jeff’s movements, wearing a robot suit which is then replaced with CGI. Jeff is definitely one my favorite movie robots now. The friendship that forms between Jeff and Finch are wonderful to watch. The dog takes a while to trust Jeff, but the eventual bonding moments are endearing.

Overall FINCH is quite a moving and heartfelt sci-fi drama that got me tearing up a few times.  For a film with such a dire subject matter, it ends with an uplifting and hopeful note that leaves a sweet, instead of bitter, after taste.

4/5 stars


Have you seen FINCH? I’d love to hear what you think!

October 2021 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Ok so spooky month is out of the way now… I have to say I’m not as fond of Halloween season as most people do. I mean I rarely watch horror movies anyway and just because it’s October doesn’t mean I was going to start watching scary movies. The only movie I saw that is somewhat spooky is Last Night in Soho. I did see quite a few new movies as well as rewatched some of my old favorites!

In any case, now on to the movie report… 

NEW TO ME MOVIES

I actually didn’t get to see as many new movies this past month, not sure why… but hey, I did get to see No Time To Die at least a week earlier than most, so yay!

Attack Of The Hollywood Clichés (2021)

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This was pretty ok to watch as Rob Lowe is a funny guy, but overall it’s not as clever as they want to be.

Proxima* (2019)

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I watched this as I love Eva Green and Alice Winocour directed the Oscar-nominated French film Mustang in 2015. It’s a really good film that highlights a female astronaut’s journey to space while balancing her role as a mother to a young daughter.

The Last Duel (2021)

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Read my review

The Guilty (2021)

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I had seen the Danish version (which I reviewed here) so I was curious to check out the Netflix remake. I think this Antoine Fuqua film is competently-made and Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent, but I’d say the Danish original is still superior, and frankly I’m not fond of the ending that makes it an un-subtle ‘message movie’ about police brutality.

Burnt (2015)

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A friend of mine recommended this to me and I’m glad I finally watched this. I’m not sure about the poor reviews as I quite like this one and Bradley Cooper is great as the lead. I also love Daniel Brühl, Sienna Miller, Omar Sy and Matthew Rhys. What a cast!! Plus I usually enjoy movies set in London.

MASS (2021)

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This is one of the most effective contained-film that relies of a fantastic script and phenomenal performances. Not sure when I’ll review this, but let’s just say I’m glad I saw it, though it’s not something I ever want to rewatch.

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

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Read my review

DUNE (2021)

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Read my in-depth review

I’m Your Man* (2021)

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Review upcoming – but in short, I LOVED it!

Rumor Has It (2005)

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I don’t normally care for Jennifer Aniston‘s rom-com, was intrigued because of The Graduate reference. Well, I’m not sure about the pairing of Kevin Costner given the 14-year age gap, and they didn’t really have a good chemistry. The movie is meh overall, though I LOVE seeing how cute young Mark Ruffalo is in this movie! 

I Am Woman* (2019)

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I was searching for a female-directed movie on Netflix and found this one, directed by Unjoo Moon. I’m so glad I watched it as I’m not at all familiar with singer Helen Ready but wow, what a woman! Love all the songs here, too, I think I’ll review this one properly one day, but I highly recommend it!

Sounds Like Love* (2021)

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Ok, here’s another movie directed by a woman on Netflix, but I could barely finish this one. It’s got a cute premise but most of the characters are intolerable and really hard to watch. If I were to rate this based on what I’ve watched so far, it’d be 1/5 stars, and I doubt the third act would redeem this movie. If you’re not into rom-com, AVOID this one, but if you really love this genre, maybe it’s still watchable, but I’m not sure.

Little Italy (2018)

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Ok so the poster apparently went viral a few years ago, which isn’t surprising as some people could hardly believe this movie even existed!! Well, I had to watch it to believe it and wow, it’s a rom-com released in 2018 but has the sensibilities (AND all the clichés) of something in the early 90s. Interesting that the director had made another pizza-related rom-com Mystic Pizza with Julia Roberts, and at one point, Julia’s niece Emma Roberts also wore a t-shirt that says A Slice in Heaven. Well, this movie is far from being heavenly, but still amusing to see Hayden Christensen as he seems to be heading into a come-back with him reprising his role as Anakin/Darth Vader in the upcoming Ahsoka Disney+ series.

A Fire Within (2021)

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Read my review

Movies That Made Us: ALIENS (2021)

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I always enjoy the behind-the-scenes process of how a hit movie got made, and this one proved that A) James Cameron is a super intense and perfectionist director that often rubs cast/crew the wrong way (surprise, surprise!) and B) Sigourney Weaver is not just a strong heroine on screen but off-screen as well with the way she vouched and fought for the crew, you go girl!

Eternals* (2021)

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Review upcoming… not a bad film per-se, but pretty disappointing.

The Song of Lunch (2010)

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This is more of a poetic experimental TV Movie than an actual film but I decided to watch it as I LOVE both Emma Thompson AND Alan Rickman, who were co-stars in my all-time favorite movie Sense & Sensibility, as well as Christmas staple Love, Actually. It’s watchable simply because of those two charismatic actors.

Finch (2021)

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Review upcoming – but it’s pretty good!

Belfast (2021)

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Review upcoming – but for now I can say that I loved it!
I’m convinced this will get an Oscar nom for Best Picture.

Last Night in Soho (2021)

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Read Vince’s review

I saw this last night on Halloween and I quite enjoyed it, primarily for the visual style, 60s retro music and Thomasin McKenzie’s performance.


52 films by womenMovies indicated with * (asterisk) indicates those directed by women. I managed to see FIVE films directed by women in October, which means I’m on a good track to complete the 52 Films By Women challenge by the end of the year.


TV SERIES

Apple TV+ FOUNDATION (2021)

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So far the only series I watched this month is FOUNDATION, and it’s been slow-going… partly because the series isn’t as engaging as I had hoped (despite THAT scene of shirtless Lee Pace, ahah). I love the premise so I still haven’t given up hope, but hopefully it gets better as A WHEEL OF TIME is arriving in mid November so I know I’ll be watching THAT!


REWATCHES

Titanic (1997) | No Time To Die (2021) | Serendipity (2001)

Some fun rewatches this month! I re-watched No Time To Die on opening weekend with my husband and I actually liked it a bit more the second time around, but I stand by what I said in my review.

Titanic is on Netflix again so of course I had to watch it again, though it took me a couple of days to finish it, such a long movie!! (and yes, I think there is room in that bloody door for TWO people, or at least Rose should help Jack find another log to rest on, I think he’d still be alive!)

Not sure why I rewatched Serendipity again but I LOVE the NYC scenery in that movie even though the plot is so preposterous.

One Night with the King (2006) | Paddington (2014) | Sense and Sensibility (1995)

I’ve been reading the Esther story and found that One Night With the King is free on Tubi. It’s actually a pretty decent film with huge names like Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif (reuniting after Lawrence of Arabia!), and Tiffany Dupont is lovely as Queen Esther. Luke Goss is such a strange casting pick as King Xerxes, it’s especially amusing to me as I used to like the music from his British duo, BROS.

Paddington and Sense & Sensibility are two of my all-time fave British movies. I LOVE the Ang Lee’s Jane Austen adaptation every single time I saw it (which I lost count at this point). Paddington is still adorable, but I much prefer Paddington 2 which is far superior to the original.


OCTOBER MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

It’s another tie for Movie of the Month … they couldn’t be more different in terms of story, tone and visual style but they’re both competently-made and also deeply personal for both directors.

Denis Villeneuve has dreamed of making DUNE since he was 13 years old, which was 40 years ago, while Kenneth Branagh wrote BELFAST as a love letter to his hometown that he left when he was 9 years of age (over 50 years ago) when his family uprooted to London during the Troubles period.


Well, what did you watch last month and what’s YOUR favorite film(s) you saw in OCTOBER?

FlixChatter Review: ANTLERS (2021)

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Directed by: Scott Cooper
Written by: Henry Chaisson, Nick Antosca, Scott Cooper

Antlers follows middle school teacher Julia Meadows (Keri Russell) as her concern for student Lucas Weaver (Jeremy T. Thomas) leads her to discover that the child’s home life isn’t just troubled, but dangerous. Along with her sheriff brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), Julia discovers that an ancestral legendary creature has a grip on Lucas through his father (Scott Haze) and younger brother (Sawyer Jones).

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I wanted to like this movie so badly. It’s produced by modern horror royalty Guillermo del Toro, stars actors I’ve enjoyed in other projects, and is centered around a monster from Native American mythology, which is a really cool concept for a big-budget film. Overall, though, I was disappointed. First, let’s start with the elephant in the room: despite the movie being based around a Native American legend, there is only one named Indigenous character in the film (Warren Stokes, played by Graham Greene), and his main role seems to be to dump a couple minutes of sloppy exposition on the protagonists. This could have been a great chance for a blockbuster movie to highlight Native American culture, and a few lazy and throw-away lines make it seem like they wanted to at least pretend they were doing that, but for the most part, it was a disappointing missed opportunity.

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The cultural problem isn’t the only writing issue in this movie. It’s badly paced; at barely over an hour and a half, it isn’t a long movie, and it could have used even an extra 15-20 minutes to flesh out the story and made it feel a little more balanced, but as it is, the beginning is a slog, and the development of the monster part of the story feels rushed. Additionally, several of the characters (specifically Amy Madigan’s Principal Ellen Booth and Rory Cochrane’s Daniel Lecroy) make decisions so stupid that it’s impossible for me to suspend my disbelief. 

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That’s not to say there isn’t anything to enjoy in this film. The cinematography is beautiful, and setting a horror movie in bleak, foggy small town Oregon works well. Russell and Plemons both give solid performances despite the less than impressive material they have to work with. And the young actors, Jeremy T. Thomas and Sawyer Jones, do incredible work, especially considering they go for long stretches without any dialogue, and I hope that we see them in more projects going forward.

While this isn’t the worst horror movie I’ve seen, it’s by no means good, and I have no interest in revisiting it. A friend told me the short story it’s based on is good, though, so that might be worth checking out.

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

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FlixChatter Review: Last Night In Soho (2021)

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Director: Edgar Wright
Starring: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Terence Stamp, Diana Rigg

Known for stylish, action-comedic films, British director Edgar Wright has added another bullet point to his ever versatile and growing oeuvre. This time, it’s the psychological horror/thriller genre with his latest film, Last Night in Soho. Though one might argue that 2004’s Shaun of the Dead fills that part of his resume, Last Night in Soho has an air of seriousness and intrigue that harkens back to early Polanski and Nicholas Roeg, two of the most genre-defying auteurs of their time, thus making this somewhat new territory.

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Last Night in Soho focuses on young timid student Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), who has psychic abilities. Having lost her mother early in life, she is able to “see” her at times. Living with her grandmother in a small rural town, she gets accepted to a venerable fashion school in London where her naivete of the big city and big city characters becomes overwhelming. Paired with a jealous, malicious and bullying roommate, Eloise sets out to find a place of her own. She finds an apartment in the Soho district of London, an area historically known for its red-light district and gangsters. Her psychic nature make her hypersensitive to her new environment and she starts to experience visions of a former tenant from the ‘60s: Sandy, a young aspiring and beautiful singer (Anya Taylor-Joy) in her dreams. At first, she is energized and inspired by these visions of late 60s Soho nightlife as well as Sandy’s style and beauty. But the visions take a darker turn and start intruding into her waking life. They get more and more terrifying by the day, making her question her sense of reality and sanity…

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A direct follow up to this year’s excellent documentary The Sparks Brothers (previously reviewed here at FlixChatter), Wright’s flamboyant style, fast pacing and atmospherics are all here but in much more subdued quantities. Co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Wright’s story keeps things simple, yet is undulated with dreamlike and precisely choreographed sequences, full of color and sound that is at times Baz Luhrman, rather than new wave cinema. Wright seems to have taken inspiration from Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now (1973), in exhibiting first-person psychological horror with decent results. 

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It all somehow works. Thomasin McKenzie, who dazzled in Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace (2018), is brilliantly cast. Her performance makes the child-like and self-doubting Eloise completely believable – conjuring a touch of Mia Farrow’s Rosemary and a sure sign of a promising dramatic acting career. Anya Taylor-Joy is fine as usual as the 60s singing vixen Sandy. Terence Stamp is cleverly creepy as an elderly stranger seemingly with ties to Sandy’s history. And most notably, Diana Rigg, in her final film performance, is sharp as Eloise’s crusty old landlady. There’s no shortage of acting chops here.

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Deft in its pacing, performances and atmospherics, the film satisfies in most respects. However, the fantastical in Last Night in Soho, with its musical interludes, gothic romance and time travel element relegate it to the realm of a fantasy film not unlike Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015). It might be too stylish for its own good but that is to be expected from Wright, whose resume includes Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010) and Baby Driver (2017). However, that sensibility shouldn’t cause one to dismiss the film. Bottom line is it’s just not that scary and maybe it shouldn’t be. It’s an engaging and watchable thriller with twists and turns enough to give M. Night Shyamalan a run for his money. Warts and all, Last Night in Soho is imperfect but highly  generous in giving us Thomasin McKenzie’s excellent performance. In this case, that is quite good enough. 

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So did you see LAST NIGHT IN SOHO? Let us know what you think!

TCFF 2021 Documentary Reviews: After Antartica + A Fire Within

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After Antartica

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The title of Legendary Polar Explorer is not a title easily earned. Minnesota-born educator, author and lecturer Will Steger earned that title when in the years between 1989–1990, he was the first to dogsled traverse Antarctica, and the International Arctic Project. Then in 1995, he became the first and only person to dogsled traverse the Arctic Ocean from Russia to Ellesmere Island in Canada.

After Antarctica is a feature-length documentary that follows Will Steger’s life journey as an eyewitness to the greatest changes in the polar regions of our planet. Thirty years after his historic coast-to-coast expedition across the coldest continent on Earth, Steger is not only known for being the first in history to complete this historic feat – he is also the last. The documentary, directed by Tasha Van Zandt in her feature debut, goes along with Steger as he revisits the frigid continent, deftly weaving his contemporary journey with rare, dynamic footage of his original, treacherous seven-month odyssey.

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After Antarctica is “a journey across both poles [that] follows legendary polar explorer Will Steger’s life journey as an eyewitness to the greatest changes to the polar regions of our planet.” The part of coming out to this documentary is that there will be a Q & A after the movie with the Legendary Polar Explorer himself – Will Steger – who came to St. Louis Park from his home in Ely, Minnesota.

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Vitali with Will Steiger @ Twin Cities Film Fest.


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Check out my recommendations of which TCFF films to watch


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A Fire Within

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This documentary tells a harrowing, emotional, but ultimately triumphant story about a subject matter I have not heard about before. In the mid 1970s, a violent political repression campaign called Ethiopian Red Terror, organized by council of military members known as the Derg against competing Marxist-Leninist groups in Ethiopia and Eritrea that killed over 700,000 people.

Edgegayehu “Edge” Taye, Elizabeth Demissie, and Hirut Abebe were jailed and tortured in their teens by Kelbessa Negewo, a Derg official nicknamed the “The Nightmare of Addis Ababa.” They managed to survive that ordeal and found refuge in North America, settling in Atlanta, New York, and Canada. Edge later found out that Kelbessa was working in the same hotel she did in Midtown Atlanta, as he was seeking political asylum after the fall of the Derg. The three women decided to finally bring Kelbessa to justice, which meant confronting something so brutal it made me shield my eyes a few times.

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There’s often a rather clichéd statement ‘you can’t escape the past’ that you see in an action movie trailer. Well, in the case of these three women though, having to confront such a distressing past is not something banal or trite, but a very real thing. Director Christopher Chambers employed re-enactment technique of the vicious tortures the women endured, which was really difficult to watch. Combined with the personal testimony of the women themselves as they recount their harrowing experience, we get to see their emotional struggles in a visceral way.

The film is produced by Liya Kebede, a renowned Ethiopian-born model and actress. It provides a good political context of Ethiopia that led to the Red Terror campaign, with the helps of political lecturers and their legal team (who worked on their case pro bono). But what really made the film effective is the firsthand account from these three brave women. It’s a powerful human rights documentary that packs an emotional punch.

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This film is screening online throughout the entire TCFF run… plus

FREE SCREENING ON SATURDAY!

October 30th, 12pm
Showplace ICON Theatres 

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PRODUCER/DIRECTOR – Christopher Chambers in Attendance!
To obtain free tickets, simply come to the TCFF Office at least 30 minutes prior to the screening to obtain vouchers.

TCFF OFFICE LOCATION
1633 West End Blvd. St. Louis Park, MN 55416


We’re halfway done with TCFF 2021, but there are still more great films to watch this week!

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To learn more about TCFF or get tickets visit twincitiesfilmfest.org


TCFF Indie Film Review: SOLD OUT (2021)

I love music-themed movies, so I was excited to see SOLD OUT. Somehow I did not realize the Minnesota-connection until I started watching this movie, which opens with a snowy Minneapolis skyline. Strangely-enough, I warmed up to this movie right away. It centers on a down-on-his-luck construction worker John (Sam Bardwell) who wants to pursue his musical dreams as a singer/songwriter. We first meet John in marriage therapy with his wife who clearly isn’t too happy about her husband’s idea of becoming a musician. Later on we meet freelance talent scout Kat (Kelsey McMahon) who’s having a moment as the rock band Lincoln 8 she discovered just had a breakthrough. They’re playing to a sold-out crowd at First Avenue, a major Twin Cities landmark, and getting multiple offers.  The scene of the band playing on stage is beautifully-shot and it’s even more fun for me to watch as I actually knew a couple of the actors in the band – Matt Bailey (looking every inch a rock star as the lead singer) and Alex Galick as the keyboardist.

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John and Kat end up meeting by chance at a bar, when he overhears that she is a talent scout. John takes a chance and gives his CD to Kat to listen to, which leads to Kat taking him under her wing to help him realize his potential. I usually enjoy music-themed dramas like Begin Again, Sing Street, Once, etc. and this one has a similar vibe. The road-movie aspect as John and Kat go on the road together gives a chance for the two main characters to connect, plus it also showcases some really cool MN Wintry scenes. There’s a memorable scene right in the middle of a frozen lake at sunrise that could totally be the film’s poster!

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It’s always important for films about music to have memorable musical sequences in them (on stage or otherwise) and there are a few here. I like the scene where John does a duet of Amazing Grace with Kat’s dad in the kitchen. It’s such a lovely, intimate moment. I love that the film shows the process, struggles and sacrifices that one has to make to pursue one’s dreams, even if it seems out of reach. Director Tim Dahlseid, is quite impressive in his feature film debut, ably balancing the music, drama and romantic aspects. I also commend Susan Brightbill (who’s written a TV movie called Holiday Hearts) for penning a compelling script with a complex woman at the center. There is a lot of layers to the story in terms of who Kat really is–there’s really a lot for a talented performer to dig into.

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Which brings me to Kelsey McMahon (a MN-based actress currently studying at the prestigious Juilliard school). I’m so impressed with her performance and she is very much the heart and soul of the movie. I like her right from the moment I saw her walking to First Avenue with her torn jeans and moto leather jacket. She doesn’t just look cool, she IS cool! She reminds me a bit of Florence Pugh in Fighting with My Family in terms of her no-nonsense attitude and genuine spunk. I hope to see more of her in the future, can’t wait for Hollywood to discover such talent! Both she and Sam Bardwell have such a good voice, which makes the characters even more believable. I really enjoy this film that I’m willing to overlook certain issues, such as pacing and unconvincing acting (by a couple of the supporting roles).

Overall it’s a truly charming, heartfelt indie film that proves once again that a good story and great performances can elevate a film no matter how small the budget. I have to commend the filmmakers for crafting such an emotionally-moving finale… it’s a perfect ending to both John and Kat’s journey that feels hopeful, yet realistic.

4/5 stars


SOLD OUT is now available to rent on AMAZON PRIME


 

TCFF 2021 Reviews: A Northwest Passage + Everything In The End + Drunk Bus

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These film are currently available online throughout the entire Twin Cities Film Fest – Oct 21-30. 

A Northwest Passage 

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Shot entirely in the neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis, A Northwest Passage tells the story of its residents, neighbors, business owners & employees, and activists who call that part of the largest city in Minnesota their home or place of business. Shot by Gregory Alan Paape and Tyler Paul Hudson during the four months between September and December 2020, the documentary deals with how people of various ages, faiths, skin color and sexual orientations have dealt with the events that came together in Northeast Minneapolis, in Minnesota and in the United States as a whole.

The COVID-19 pandemic, the unrest following the murder of George Floyd, the Presidential Election and  the ramifications of those events coming together made the year 2020 unique for everyone including the residents of Northeast Minneapolis. Paape and Hudson take us throughout one of the oldest neighborhoods of Minneapolis, as people are ordering takeout, catching a bus, shopping at Target or Cub Foods, or shooting hoops with their friends. The interviews they conduct with these strangers show that these people are more connected than they might realize. Even though they might not realize it, they share the same hope, fear and desire to make their community a better place.

I would strongly recommend this documentary for everyone who wants to learn about how one community survived the events of 2020 and came out stronger together.


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Check out my recommendations of which TCFF films to watch


Everything In The End

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The premise is quite simple; Paulo (Hugo De Sousa) has travelled from Portugal to Iceland, while still grieving from the recent death of his mother, a trip they were supposed to do together. While there, news the world has been waiting for finally arrives – earth will cease to exist in a matter of days. Unable, and somewhat hesitant to go back home to Portugal, Paulo is stranded in a small Icelandic village where not everyone speaks English, and he spends his last days wandering a delicate foreign land and encountering the people he will spend his final hours with. He makes intimate human connections with a mother and her son, bonds with another younger man with the help of a bottle of alcohol, and uses the help of a middle-aged man, who assists Paulo find his way around the Icelandic countryside. Each brief moment of human connectedness helps Paulo process his grief as he comes to accept the end.

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Everything In The End is directed and written by Mylissa Fitzsimmons, in her feature directorial debut. It was shot in Iceland with a crew of seven people and beautifully showcases the quiet natural wonder of waves crashing along the shores, while also exploring subtle themes of climate change and Earths destruction through meaningful visuals. Also, the character of Paulo is written as a relatable, vulnerable and charming young man who shares in film’s main theme; who are we, as humans, as members of society and as inhabitants of this planet? The answers to those questions may not be easily told in words but the film does so by showing us that it’s the small details in life that make us human.

Everything In The End is one of my “can’t miss movies” of the 2021 Twin Cities Film Festival!


Drunk Bus

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This equally funny and outrageous film follows the life of Michael (Charlie Tahan), who recently graduated from college. In his mid-20s, Michael’s futures plans get derailed when his girlfriend leaves him for a job in New York City, and he is left stuck in Ohio without a new plan of his own. The only thing left for him to do is to continue the endless loop of driving the “Drunk Bus,” the debaucherous late-night campus shuttle that ferries drunken college students from parties to the dorms and back. After several physical altercations with drunken college students, the bus service hires a private security guard named Pinnacle (fun fact: his real life name is Pineapple Tangaroa) to watch over the night shift and keep Michael safe.

The 300-lb punk rock Samoan, whose tattooed face is impossible to forget, gives Michael a good ass-kicking to try to force him to break from his “Drunk Bus” loop and start living his own life or risk driving in circles forever. Partly a coming-of-age journey, and partially a crazy, wild night of partying, the movie finds the perfect balance between a rowdy, indulgent comedy and a poignant and heartfelt drama.

Interestingly, this movie would fit well in this year’s TCFF change maker series topic of mental wellness; because Michael’s mental state in the movie really changes 180 degrees from start to finish.


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americanish

Director: Iman Zawahry
Runtime: 91 Minutes

Set in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, the film follows a relatable and endearing storyline offering a fresh perspective on classic rom-com tropes. Americanish delves into the complexity of trying to both honor and break from cultural traditions while balancing personal values and career goals in a society that does not always accommodate both.


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