AUGUST 2020 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month

Happy First Day of September, folks! Well, even though the last day of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere isn’t until September 22, the ‘ber’ months have begun, which means Summer days are definitely numbered. It’s also the first MN Summer during a pandemic… where we, citizens of the world, had to cope with self-quarantine and stay-at-home order. I can’t even remember the last time I actually went to the movie theater!

Well, my hubby and I finally decided we’ll be seeing TENET this weekend!! The theater would only operate in 50% capacity by blocking seats, and they’re committed to take strategic measures in accordance of CDC, WHO and local health authority guidelines. Of course we’ll be wearing our masks while inside the theater.

So anyway, stay tuned for my review of TENET… in the meantime, here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

I watched first two on this list, The Ottoman Lieutenant and The Promise, back to back. I wasn’t all that impressed by The Ottoman Lieutenant with its rather cheesy love triangle, but was curious to read about the history behind the film. So I went to Wikipedia and was inspired to watch The Promise right away upon reading it. Apparently both films were within a month of each other in 2017. Per Wiki, the perceived similarities between the films resulted in accusations that The Ottoman Lieutenant existed to deny the Armenian genocide in 1915.

Man I wish I had known that before I watched the movie. It’s so disturbing how the Armenian genocide inspired Hitler and the Nazis in exterminating the Jews two decades later. Any piece of art that tries to deny/shift blame about something so atrocious as systematic mass murder has no right to exist. Even if the film were good, in this case it wasn’t, I still think it should not have been made, let alone released publicly. I’m surprised Sir Ben Kingsley (whose most famous role is in Schindler’s List!) was part of the cast!

I’m hoping I could write more about The Promise, which is a far better film of the two, and was actually based on historical events. It was directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) and had a great cast – Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon and Marwan Kenzari.

The Ottoman Lieutenant

The Promise

The Personal History of David Copperfield (review upcoming)

TESLA

Project Power (read Ted’s review)

EuroVision Song Contest (read Vitali’s review)

Made In Italy

The Secret: Dare to Dream


TV Shows/Miniseries


BBC’s Miranda

Black Mirror (Season 4) – Crocodile + USS Callister

ITV/PBS’ Victoria (season 2)

BBC’s The Night Manager


 Rewatches

Sleepless In Seattle | The Rocketeer | Cinderella | Tarzan | Casino Royale | Netflix’s MEDICI: THE MAGNIFICENT 

Since I still have Disney+ subscription, I decided to rewatch some of Disney favorites (though I actually owned The Rocketeer and Cinderella blurays, ahah). I know I’ve been talking about MEDICI a lot lately, trust me… I will unveil my massive two-part Medici appreciation post in the next week or so!


MOVIE OF THE MONTH

The Personal History of David Copperfield

I had been wanting to see this since it came out last Fall in the UK. Its US release was supposed to be in May this year, but of course it was delayed due to Covid-19. Well, it was well worth the wait! Even though I’m actually not that familiar w/ this Charles Dickens’ classic (I think the only two I’m familiar with are A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations), I really enjoyed the film. Dev Patel did a fantastic job as the lead, a result of brilliant color-blind casting, and further proves he’s a versatile actor. I can’t wait to see him tackle yet another classic character that’s typically played by a Caucasian actor… The Green Knight.


Well that’s my viewing recap of August. What about you, and what’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

Weekend Roundup – BBC’s MIRANDA series, TESLA movie + Netflix’s Project Power

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope you all had a nice weekend. I haven’t done these weekend roundup posts in ages, but maybe now that the lockdown/quarantine or whatever you call it continues, I might make this a more regular thing… we’ll see.

I couldn’t pick a more different shows/movies to watch this weekend, don’t I? 😀 Well, I like to spice things up, ahah. On Friday I had a friend over and I actually watched a couple of episodes of MEDICI: The Magnificent (again… I’m trying to convince her to keep watching this series as they’re SO good!!). So we watched the TRUST episode, which is one of my faves of season 3… and trust me when I said I’m still working on a massive MEDICI post, it might have to be broken into 2 parts as it’s really, really big!

Well, when we’re done with a couple of episodes, my friend tried to convince me to binge LUCIFER (why? well… have you LOOKED at Tom Ellis?? If you know me at all, I have a penchant for Welshman, and he practically looks like a young Timothy Dalton!). As it turns out, I find LUCIFER rather meh, I just cannot get into it at all… but we thought about checking out what other series Tom E. has been in, thus… MIRANDA!! And guess what, I was completely hooked right away!!

I’d been a fan of Miranda Hart for a while, she’s so hilarious in SPY, EMMA. and all her Graham Norton’s appearances. But for some reason I just never got around to seeing her popular BBC sitcoms that ran from 2009-2015. Per Wiki, developed from Hart’s semi-autobiographical BBC Radio 2 comedy Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop (2008), the situation comedy revolves around socially inept Miranda, who frequently finds herself in awkward situations. Even her opening sequence is simply adorable!!

So I’ve finished season 1 and 2 (I even tolerated the ads on IMDb TV!) this weekend and SO looking forward to season 3! I’m hoping I could find the Christmas special and other special episodes. I can’t get enough of Miranda… and the funniest & most adorable moments are between her & Gary… I mean we’ve all been there, making a fool of ourselves in front of our crushes!

Here’s the very first episode if you’re curious… the scene of her with Gary (5:50 and 12:20) are hilarious!! I love it when characters break the fourth wall in such a fun way, and Miranda does it a lot!

Of course any sitcom has to have a great cast to support the main star and this show is chock full of the best British comedians … Sarah Hadland, Patricia Hodge, Sally Phillips, James Holmes. Of course the best part of the show is Miranda herself… she’s just a naturally funny and the show is absurd but yet relatable. It’s been a while since I watch anything w/ a laugh track, and it takes a while to get used to, but here, I was laughing along with them every time that soon it didn’t bother me. Ok, here are some hilarious bloopers… man I wish this show is still around, I just can’t get enough!

So thanks Lucifer for introducing me to Gary AND Miranda… funny how you end up finding certain shows. Oh well, better late than never!


Now, the other show I watched this weekend was Netflix’s PROJECT POWER.

An ex-soldier, a teen and a cop collide in New Orleans as they hunt for the source behind a dangerous new pill that grants users temporary superpowers.

It’s got a great cast of Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but it’s newcomer Dominique Fishback who’s the scene stealer. The movie is pretty cool with sleek visuals and dynamic direction, but I feel that overall it’s more style than substance type of action thriller. There are some really dumb, cheesy moments that threaten to ruin all the good things about it, especially in a particularly bombastic scene towards the end… not to mention the undercooked superhero-twist plot, scratch-your-head logic (well lack thereof) and caricature villains.

Ted S. will review it fully sometime later, so stay tuned for that.

Oh, I also watched the new TESLA movie starring Ethan Hawke as the visionary inventor Nikola Tesla, his interactions with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan’s daughter Anne, and his breakthroughs in transmitting electrical power and light.

It’s a rather unusual take on a biopic, employing surrealistic technique in its narrative. The filmmaker bills it as a distinctly modern voice to a scientific period drama which, like its subject, defies convention. Stay tuned for my full review later this week.


So, what did you watch this weekend? Anything good?

 

Musings on what’s happening in Minneapolis + the Tulsa Massacre scene in Watchmen

Unless you live under a rock or been living in another planet, you’re likely aware of the chaos and unrest that’s been happening in Minnesota… particularly in Minneapolis.

I was ready to post a review of The Trip To Greece, which I had finished last Wednesday, but honestly… I didn’t feel right posting about such a movie when all I could think about was the police brutality that led to George Floyd’s untimely death on Memorial Day. Though I’ve lived in Minnesota since the early 90s, I have never lived in Minneapolis. I live in the southern suburbs about a half an hour away, but I visit the city often on weekends. It’s so heartbreaking to see parts of the city burn, vandalized and people getting hurt… seeing the devastations that started out as peaceful protests. This past week was filled with protests, looting, rioting, etc. that caused so much chaos and destructions that stretch for miles, not just affecting the neighborhoods where Mr. Floyd lost his life, but other neighborhoods as well. Hundreds of National Guard soldiers were mobilized (even Star Tribune paper said if more were needed, it would be the first full mobilization of the Guard in Minnesota since World War II! – that certainly made me pause), and curfews were enforced from 8pm-6am in many areas in and around the city.

George Floyd mural on a wall of Cup Foods at 38th & Chicago, Minneapolis

Race relations in my adopted country United States is often in shaky grounds… it’s even more pronounced in the events of police brutality towards black men and justice was not served properly (i.e. in the case of Philando Castile where the officer who shot him was acquitted) Now, I don’t want to get political or philosophical about this matter, but I’m offering a brief commentary here as a person of color living in America. Coming from Indonesia, a country that was colonized by the Dutch for over three centuries that left its dark legacy of colonialism, it’s hard to overlook the fact that racial prejudice and superior mentality do exist and passed down through generations. Even amongst the most well-meaning, progressive-minded people, many are still ignorant of the pain certain groups have endured for generations, myself included. Thus I do believe it’s important to empathize with people who come from different backgrounds, no matter what race, but especially those who are minorities and marginalized… as we are all human beings created in the image of God. What happened to Mr. Floyd is wrong and he and his family deserve justice.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook and I avoid being on social media for much of this weekend. But I did come across an article in the Star Tribune that’s eye-opening and heartbreaking… a violent demonstration happened in Minneapolis Field neighborhood in July, 1931, where thousands of white people protested against an African-American couple moving in to the all-white neighborhood.

“More than 3,000 persons assembled outside the home, occupied by A.A. Lee and his family, to hurl defiance at the police and openly threaten Lee and his friends.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about such blatant racism existed back then… but reading that still shocked me. It’s even more sad that this kind of systemic racism still goes on today and in many cities in America.

Another historical incident I did not know about was the Tulsa Massacre, which ironically happens exactly 99 years ago today as I’m writing this, May 31 of 1921. It lasted for 18 hours until June 1st, the following day, where 300 people, mostly blacks, were killed.

I only knew about this event when I saw the explosive opening scene of the first episode of HBO’s Watchmen. The clip on youtube was labeled as ‘riots’ but it was definitely more of a massacre by an angry white mob.

Per Indiewire, this incident highly influenced the series, as Watchmen‘s show runner Damon Lindelof was inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2014 article The Case for Reparations about the the Tulsa Massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District — aka “Black Wall Street,” the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time. I know many fans of the graphic novels are not keen on Lindelof’s reimagining of writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’s original creation, calling it ‘woke propaganda.’ I did not read the graphic novels, but I always think the story has always been political, even if the novel was perhaps more nuanced and complex than how the HBO show depicts it.

I’m actually glad when a movie/show gives me a brief history lesson so to speak, as I promptly googled the Tulsa massacre after watching it. Since I wasn’t raised here in the US and wasn’t taught American history in high school, I never knew this event ever took place. I thought initially this was a fictitious event in the show that depicts an alternate history. But as it turns out, many Americans didn’t know this was a real event, either. No wonder there was apparently a surge in Google search about that incident following the pilot.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, that event was marked as the single worst incident of racial violence in American history. This article in LA Times said attempts were made to cover up the events in the aftermath of the killings, and it took decades for historians and state officials to unearth the history. I think erasing history is just as atrocious as the actual historical event itself.

Now, I happen to think the show is outstanding in terms of its emotional quotient, acting (esp. Regina King‘s performance), production quality, and entertainment value. Hopefully one day I get a chance to do a proper post on it, but at the same time I feel ill-equipped to review the show. The racial issues depicted in the show seems so eerily similar to what’s going on in America today. In fact, having finished season one just days before Memorial weekend, that horrifying opening scene is still fresh in my mind.

So, back to the story about George Floyd, I sure hope this horrific incident would not become lost in the future like the Tulsa massacre. It’s heartbreaking that such a dark history was nearly obliterated… how can the new generation learn from past mistakes if they are shielded from the truth? Thankfully, it seems that the world has taken notice about this case, and street protests have spread globally to other parts of the world… London, Berlin and Toronto. In an usual move, even major Hollywood companies like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Warner Bros, HBO, etc. voice their support for Black Lives Matter movement using their corporate social media accounts.

Now, for those of you from out of state/country who are watching only the devastation and horrible things coming out of Minneapolis lately, I’d like to end this post with this FB post by a Minnesota filmmaker that highlights just what’s going on today…

The protests are still going on and the city is not quite out of the woods yet, but I love how the community comes together and show that they care for one another. My hubby and I dropped off supplies earlier today at a local Food Pantry an hour before the drop off location closed and there were lines of cars trying to donate as well.

My heart is still heavy over what’s happening this week, but I pray that Minneapolis and the surrounding community will see light at the end of this dark tunnel… for peace, reconciliation and harmony, no matter how insurmountable all those things seem to be right now.


For my friends in the Twin Cities, stay safe and be safe.

 

HEARTS WANT in the press – only hours left on Kickstarter

Ok here’s the last Kickstarter post you’ll see here… Y’know what, whatever happens I’ll be so relieved when it’s done. If you think it’s tough making a film, well, try launching a Kickstarter campaign 😉


We’re still only 75% funded with mere hours left as I’m done posting this. I’m a glass half-full kind of person so I’m extremely grateful for our backers! Of course I’m not gonna lie I’m nervous we won’t meet our goal… and if you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s an all-or-nothing campaign which means if we don’t meet our goal we’ll get nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

But hey I’m optimistic 😬 … [well what choice do I have]… and I’m super grateful for my friends who have been so supportive, both financially and also in spreading the word about my Kickstarter campaign!

THANK YOU again Paula, Shivani, MarkNostra, and Dan for your tremendous support on various social media channels!

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was invited to be a guest on The Film Pasture podcast [thanks Vern!] Link below:


I’m also honored to be featured on Top 10 Films site run by my pal Dan Stephens [thank you Dan!]. Read on if you’re curious about my filmmaking journey…

It’s fun being on the other end of an interview once in a while 🙂


If you listen to InSession Film podcast later this week you might hear about Hearts Want there too (thanks JD Duran!)

 


Just a quick note on what I’ve been watching…

Well I managed to see War For The Planet of the Apes and I LOVED it! The three ‘Apes’ films now stands one of my favorite cinematic trilogies ever. It’s such a compelling journey of this genius ape, living in two worlds whilst trying to save its kind from extinction… it’s such a heart-wrenching, poignant story that’s strangely relatable. Definitely one of my faves of the year.

I haven’t got around to seeing DUNKIRK just yet, for sure we will next weekend. The press screening happened to hit on the day I’m meeting with my composer for the film, so obviously that takes priority.


Ok folks, I’ll be sure to post a review sometime this week (from our awesome contributor Richard of Cinemuse Films). I also have a couple of interviews with a MN-based director and a female filmmaker whose film just screened at Edinburgh Film Festival. So stay tuned!

Just days left on HEARTS WANT Kickstarter campaign

Can’t believe we’re in mid July already! Time sure flies in the Summer time… and time seems to fly even faster when one is running a Kickstarter campaign.

Yep, it’s just 9 days to go until our campaign ends folks… and we could really use your help in crossing the finish line. We are still hoping to submit this film to Twin Cities Film Fest soon to be eligible for 2017 run in October, so time is of the essence. If you’ve always wanted a chance to be a part of a female-led indie film with talented indie filmmakers and actors, this is your chance!

Watch this video from our leading man Peter Christian Hansen on why you should back our film…

Minnesota theatre goers might’ve seen Peter on stage in various productions, including at the Guthrie. He’s also the artistic director of Gremlin Theatre), as well as the leading man of the Australian indie sci-fi Project Eden whom I interviewed last February.

Did you check out the rewards yet?

On top of the automatic rewards of feeling good for being a big supporter of indie film [natch], there are also actual rewards!

My hubby and co exec-producer Ivan had been working tirelessly to make props for the film just a week prior to filming! This is NOT the film poster, but rather a poster of the play within the film that’s called Hearts Want where the lead characters Jacques & Lily reunite for after seven years apart.

Check out this time lapse video of Ivan’s poster sketch:

My hubby also created these theatre posters that’s posted on the wall of Lily’s dressing room:

Check out the various updates posted on the Kickstarter page… including meeting the mostly-female crew who were super fun to work with on and off set.

As a longtime supporter of #womeninfilm I’m extremely grateful for the chance to work with so many amazingly talented women in the Minnesota film community!


You can follow the journey of Hearts Want film on Facebook, Instagram and also Pinterest!


 

Week In Review: A comedic play, Spider-man Homecoming and podcasting

How’s your weekend everyone? Well it’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, but a fun one nonetheless. I didn’t get an extra day off for Fourth of July, but still a four-day work week is better than five 🙂

I did manage to see a fun play on Friday night, a French farce called Don’t Dress For Dinner. It’s actually the opening night of the theatre company run by my lead actor Peter Hansen, in which he also starred in with five other actors.


I also got to see one of its rehearsals last week which was really fun to see. I had never been to a play rehearsal before and the fact that it’s a comedy is even more delightful to watch. Oh as if I hadn’t been busy enough w/ my film AND Kickstarter campaign, I also helped redesign his theatre website. (yep I need a vacation real bad!)

Saturday was a hot day, so after a scorching afternoon going to Art Crank in NE Minneapolis, we cooled off watching the new Spidey flick.

I have to admit I wasn’t all that enthused to see this so if it wasn’t for my hubby’s insistence, I probably would’ve waited for its VOD release. Fortunately it ends up being a pretty decent flick which is NOT an origin story, thank goodness!

It’s fun to see Peter Parker being a proper teenager and Tom Holland is perfectly believable in the role. Some of the banters between him and his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) seems too cutesy with all the ‘awesome’ which at times doesn’t ring true. But as the film progressed it didn’t bother me and they do have some fun memorable moments. Our young’un hero is far more eager to be a hero than in past interpretations but I’m glad actually gets to do something heroic and does it on his own account.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael Keaton as the villain. He’s definitely one of the best villains in the plethora of Spidey movies I’ve seen over the years. My fave is still Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 2 and Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is right up there with him. I like villains who are more of a tragic character, not an all-out monster hellbent on destroying the world. I enjoyed watching Keaton as a cross between Batman and Birdman when he’s wearing the birdlike costume, but his character actually has some depth. There’s also a pretty bizarre father-daughter storyline here that I did not see coming.

The movie starts out pretty light, Peter’s fanboy-ing over Tony Stark also gets overdone, but the movie actually grows darker with a genuine sense of dread. I am however quite puzzled by the hype over Zendaya in this movie. Not because her acting wasn’t good but her character barely registers here to even make any impact. Yes I appreciate that she’s not just another love interest but I wish the slew of writers actually gave her something to do. The movie does hint that she perhaps will have a larger role in the inevitable sequels.

Despite me feeling blasé about this reboot, this movie ends up being pretty enjoyable. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences though the finale is still way too loud & bombastic. Casting-wise, Holland fits the role nicely and he seems to have fun doing it. There are fun moments of Peter poking fun at members of the Avengers which is in keeping with him being a 15-year-old kid. It was pretty fun seeing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his chauffeur/personal assistant ‘Happy’ (Jon Favreau) as part of the story too. I’m not exactly clamoring to see more of Spidey movies though, but I suppose if they gotta make ’em at least they don’t suck.


The weekend is topped off w/ my first time doing a podcast! It was fun being a guest for an episode of The Film Pasture, hosted by my friend Vern from Vern’s Video Vortex with film blogger Kristen Lopez. Vern was kind enough to invite me to discuss our picks of Top 5 Female Filmmakers and let me promote my short film Hearts Want which I can proudly say has a strong woman of color in the lead and done by a mostly-female crew.

I will post the podcast here once it’s up. As you know I’m a big supporter of women filmmakers and having just written/produced my first film, naturally I have even more respect for those who’ve made it in the male-dominated film industry.


Well, did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen the newest Spider-man movie, what did you think?

Weekend Roundup: Quick review of BABY DRIVER (2017)

Happy [almost] Fourth of July weekend! It’s not really a long weekend for me as I’ll be working both Monday AND Wednesday, though the office is pretty much dead today with everyone taking a day off.

Last week was a pretty hectic one, hence I hadn’t even posted anything other than my short film update. Well, as if making movies wasn’t nerve wracking enough, I also launched a crowdfunding campaign is Kickstarter campaign last week. We had a good start but we still have a long way to go before we reach our goal.

Shout out to Paula, Shivani, Mark, and Nostra for your tremendous support on various social media channels!

This weekend I did manage to fit in a movie night… and it was a ton of fun!

Move over Guardians of the Galaxy. I think the movie w/ the best retro soundtrack this year belongs to Baby Driver. It’s also one helluva heist action flick that gets your blood pumpin’ from start to finish.

I like Edgar Wright and his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy (especially Hot Fuzz!) but for some reason I haven’t been paying much attention to Baby Driver. I think I only read an article a while back when it was a hit at SXSW and then of course I was intrigued by the stellar reviews (97% on Rotten Tomatoes!) So naturally I had a high expectations going into this movie. Fortunately it didn’t disappoint!

I dig car chases!! I grew up w/ two brothers and played with matchbox cars instead of Barbie dolls as a kid so I always enjoy a thrilling car chase in the movies! Man, what an opening scene!! You can watch how they made it in this featurette. That’s perhaps one of the best car chases since the first Transporter flick, but this time we’ve got a kid at the wheel with a cutesy name Baby (Ansel Elgort). Yep it’s B-A-B-Y. Hence the title.

It’s obvious Wright himself is a big fan of heist movies and crazy car chases, and it shows. He’s also got an ear for music, and music is truly the fuel for this exciting ride. You go see this for the action, but there’s also a pretty compelling story and a character worth rooting for. Elgort isn’t the most charismatic young actor but he acquits himself well here and it’s easy to root for Baby who’s had a tragic past and wants out of the crime business. He’s surrounded by a fun supporting cast: Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Lily James as Baby’s love interest. I’d say it’s quite inspired casting, especially in regards to Jon Hamm. The romance between Lily and Ansel seems deliberately too cutesy, cheesy even, but it’s kind of sweet, too.

In a way, Baby Driver is a heist flick & coming-of-age movie in one. And that makes it refreshingly original, as we see this kid who gets picked on and taken advantage of finally breaking free and coming into his own. The rather restrained ending is quite a pleasant surprise to me given how many blockbusters seem to go for deafeningly-bombastic finale.

So if you’re in the mood for fun music, crazy action and some sweet little romance, you can’t go wrong with Baby Driver.This movie’s also got heart to go with all the cool moves. And of course, plenty of Wright’s cheeky brand of humor too.

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Have you seen ‘BABY DRIVER’? Well, what did you think?