Week In Review: Hunt For the Wilderpeople + Loving + The Little Prince

weekinreviewnov20

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s been a while since I did a roundup post, but I figure it’s a good way for me to ease my way into blogging again. It’s been a particularly gratifying week as I saw two of my highly-anticipated films, Loving and Hunt For the Wilderpeople. As Winter has officially arrived, we pretty much hibernated this weekend so my hubby and I saw The Little Prince on Netflix Saturday night.

Below is my mini reviews of two of the films I saw this past week, plus quick thoughts on the New Zealander adventure comedy…

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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I became a huge fan of Taika Waititi‘s work since the hilarious vampire mockumentary What We Do In The Shadows. Well, he’s come up with yet another riotously-funny movie that could practically double as a travel video for New Zealand!

I will do a full review of this later in December, but right now all I can say is… RUN, don’t walk to rent this movie!! I’m gutted that I missed this on the big screen, not sure that it even had a theatrical release here in MN. In any case, I enjoyed the heck out of this one. LOVE the unlikely duo of veteran actor Sam Neill with newcomer Julian Dennison, a riotous 14-year-old NZ child actor with an amazing comic timing and screen presence. He’s inspired me to do a top 10 list of great 2016 performances by kid actors, so stay tuned for that!


Loving

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Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married.

This film couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is surely in tumultuous times right now. It seems appalling that interracial marriage was still illegal in some states fifty some years ago, but have we really come that far since? The latest film from Jeff Nichols is beautifully-told, graceful and affecting as the filmmaker focused on the couple themselves instead of making a political statement. Yes of course the film has a major political and social implication, as the Supreme Court decision on Loving v. Virginia put an end to all miscegenation laws in 1967. But at the end of the day, the story is about two human beings who loved each other and wanted to raise a family together.

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Both Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed Mildred and Richard with such quiet grace and sincerity. It’s an understated performance that speaks volumes and conveys the tension as well as poignancy of what they went through. For someone withe the name Loving, Richard surely lives up to that and it’s truly a beautiful marriage built on not just love, but mutual respect. Michael Shannon has a small–but–memorable cameo as a LIFE magazine photographer who took the iconic shots of the couple as they simply hang out in their home, watching tv, playing with their kids, etc. There’s also Marton Csokas as the ‘villain’ of the story, the Virginia sheriff who arrested them.

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The script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring the Lovings’ story to life. The cinematography and music are beautiful and evocative, it works in transporting us to a certain period of Americana. But it’s the journey of the Lovings that I shall never forget. By making the film about the couple, forgoing court drama theatrics, Nichols made a deeply moving film that connected with me in a refreshingly real way.

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The Little Prince (2015)

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A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.

Truth be told, I’m not that familiar with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, despite it being the fourth most translated book in the world. This is the first animated feature film adaptation of the book, directed by Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), boasting a terrific cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Ricky Gervais, etc.

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I have a penchant for these kinds of imaginative stories, one that blends in reality and fantasy set in striking visuals. The little girl’s relationship with her overly-ambitious mother is an interesting commentary about the overly-structured life of an adult vs the wide-eyed openness of a child exploring the world. I have to admit it took me a while to get into this one at first, even after the girl (Mackenzie Foy, who was in Interstellar) meets the narrator, an elderly man (Jeff Bridges) who told her the tale about the aviator and the little prince. I’m often lost in the beauty of the visuals, especially the stop-motion scenes in the desert created using paper. It’s absolutely gorgeous with a dreamy quality, but yet for some reason I couldn’t connect to the story nor the characters as much as I wanted to. I wonder if at times there’s a case of ‘lost in translation’ here from the original story.

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There are philosophical quotes that resonated with me however, such as “One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.” I also enjoyed the music by Hans Zimmer and Richard Harvey, which nicely complements the ethereal, watercolor look of the film. It certainly is worth a watch, for sure it’s a technical/visual marvel, even if the film overall isn’t as breathtaking as I had hoped.

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More reviews coming your way…

I’ve written up my full review of Doctor Strange coming later this week. My hubby and I saw Arrival last weekend, right after we’re back from our Zion/Vegas trip, which was truly one of the best, most affecting sci-fi film I’ve seen in a good while.  I plan on writing my review of Arrival and Moonlight (one of the two October Movies of the Month!) later this week. I’ll be seeing the new Brad Pitt/Marion Cotillard spy drama Allied tonight, and if the snow storm doesn’t wreck havoc on traffic, hopefully I’ll be seeing Hidden Figures tomorrow night! Oh and my new blog contributor Laura S. also gave me a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, so stay tuned for a slew of new reviews in the next few weeks!

#SlowlyGettingMyBloggingMojoBack😉


So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen any of these movies, I’m curious to hear what YOU think. 

Guest Review: Bleed For This (2016)

guestpostbleedforthis

I was a little nervous to write this review. My first two posts for FlixChatter (Ouija and The Eyes Of My Mother) were for horror movies-a genre I enjoy and feel comfortable writing about- so being assigned a movie outside of my wheelhouse was a little daunting, especially considering this one is a boxing movie. I am not remotely a sports person. When I voiced my concerns to my sister, she pointed out that regardless of the subject, a good movie should make me empathize with the main character. I should be able to relate to their struggle and their eagerness to achieve their goals. Was I able to do that in Bleed for This? No. Not really. And for a movie like this, that is really a problem.

Bleed for This tells the true story of Vinny Pazienza (Miles Teller), a world champion boxer who suffers a near-fatal car crash, breaking his neck and being told he may never walk again, let alone fight. Despite this major injury, concern from his parents (Katey Sagal and Ciaran Hinds), and lack of support from his manager (Ted Levine), he works relentlessly to not only heal, but return to his former strength and fight again.

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A story like this should be tense and emotional, but it was surprisingly underwhelming. This mostly has to do with poor pacing. A substantial amount of the first half of the movie was dedicated to introducing Vinny and establishing his identity as a boxer, but the events following his car crash-specifically, his journey to recovery- were rushed, showing very little of his physical challenges or his emotional turmoil over potentially never boxing again. We see him struggle to lift a barbell in his parents’ basement which created a moment of suspense (would he be able to even move it? Would he injure himself further?), but the subsequent training montage with trainer Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart) is brief and shows virtually no extreme effort, so when he finally enters the ring again, it doesn’t feel like as enormous of an achievement as it should.

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Vinny’s feelings about his boxing career possibly ending could have been addressed better as well. Before the accident, his manager suggests he consider retiring, infuriating Vinny; he can’t imagine ever not being a boxer, but when he’s presented with that very real possibility after the car crash, we don’t really see him explore his feelings about it, which seems strange after making such a big deal about his commitment to boxing in the first act.

That’s not to say the movie didn’t have its good points. It had a strong cast, and the chemistry between Teller and Eckhart was especially impressive. There were a few moments of genuine tension toward the end of the film- but not enough to save it from being boring overall.

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I’m sure the real Vinny Pazienza’s recovery was incredibly difficult. I’m sure the training was exhausting and painful and required unbelievable self-discipline, and the idea that he might not reach his goal was probably terrifying. But if none of that is conveyed, what’s the point of making a movie about it at all?


laurasLaura Schaubschlager is a Winona State University graduate with a B.A. in English, which is seldom put to use in my health insurance career (outside of cringing at the grammatical errors my superiors make in their emails). I’m an avid horror fan (movies, novels, video games- anything that makes me hesitate when I go to turn off the light at night), and I’m always looking for writing opportunities, although my current portfolio is made up of partially-completed short stories and an occasionally-updated blog: schaublahblah.wordpress.com.


Have you seen ‘Bleed For This’? Well, what did you think? 

Scene spotlight: INCEPTION – ‘You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling’

Hi everyone! My blogging break has been longer than expected, but for some reason I haven’t got the energy to write reviews. I actually tried to write my review of Doctor Strange and Jack Reacher yesterday but never finished it. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it lately… I’ve been focusing on other things [read: my screenplay and the dream of turning it into a feature film]

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image via WeHeartIt


Thinking about dreaming big… somehow Tom Hardy‘s Eames quote from Inception is one that keeps coming to mind. Hardy is the absolute scene stealer here, his charisma eclipse everyone here including Leo DiCaprio himself. It’s a memorable little scene that’s said in a tongue-in-cheek way, it really has nothing to do with anything philosophical at all. Yet that line, and the way Hardy’s gorgeous voice saying it, resonated with me and in a strange way, inspires me. It’d look good as a framed quote too!


It’s been ages sinceI watched Inception, I should rewatch it again soon as I’ve got the Bluray. Now if only I could enlist Dom Cobb & co. to help plant an idea on some studio executives that my script is worth investing on, ha! Interesting too that Christopher Nolan based the roles of the Inception team similar to those used in filmmaking – Cobb is the director, Arthur is the producer, Ariadne is the production designer, Eames is the actor, Saito is the studio, and Fischer is the audience. What a troupe of actors to portray a perfect team for the perfect heist. The grand scale of idea for this film is mind-boggling… it’s just a phenomenally-written script that’s executed so well.

 


Thoughts on this Inception scene? Feel free to share a scene that’s inspired you recently.

FlixChatter Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

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It’s been ten years since Mel Gibson‘s last directed a film; the violent adventure Apocalypto was a mild success for the controversial actor and director. Many thought that film would be a comeback for Gibson, but then his personal life took another controversial hit and he’s been out of the limelight for a few years. He’s now back with another violent film that’s based on a real life WW2 American Army named Desmond Doss, who became the first Conscientious Objector in American history to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Doss (Andrew Garfield) who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, learned the true impact of violence at a young age. During a scuffle with his older brother, Doss almost killed his sibling and after that he sworn not to hurt or kill another human beings. His alcoholic father Tom (Hugo Weaving), who happens to be a war veteran himself, tends to physically abuse his mom Bertha (Rachel Griffiths), also made him despise violence. During a visit to a local clinic, Doss’ eye catches Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), a nurse who takes a shine to his humble-but-determined ways, with the pair eventually getting engaged to be married.

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However, before they’re eloped, Doss enlists in the army, uncomfortable with the idea of staying behind while others fight for their country. When he arrives for basic training, Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist, proclaims his interest in being a combat medic, refusing to take part in gun training. Frustrating superiors Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Glover (Sam Worthington), Doss’ faith is put to the test through hazing and menial labor, making an enemy out of Smitty (Luke Bracey). When the unit is finally shipped over to Japan to take Okinawa, the ferocious battle of Hacksaw Ridge presents Doss with a supreme challenge of survival and duty.

Gibson, who I believe is an excellent director, didn’t really do anything new when it comes to storytelling. We get the usual romance montage between Doss and Dorothy, Doss being resented by his peers when he refused to pick up a weapon. But when the battle starts, here’s where Gibson shine as a director. Since he had appeared in several action films, Gibson knows how to staged some of the most intense and bloodiest war battle sequences ever put on film.

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Even though his Southern accent were inconsistent, Garfield’s performance is very good here. He’s a man of faith and really stick to his principles. I was quite surprised by the effective performances by Vaughn, Worthington, Bracey and Palmer. Weaving’s drunken father character is a bit more clichéd, but it’s nice seeing ‘Agent Smith’ playing something other than a bad guy.

It may not be in the same class as other great WW2 pictures like The Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan, but I was glad Gibson decided to tell this story. I’ve never heard of Desmond Doss before and after seeing this film, I have nothing but respect for late war veteran.

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Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge? Well, what did you think?

Five for the Fifth: November 2016 Edition

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Hello everyone! As I’m posting this, I’ve just finished packing for a quick trip to Zion National Park, UT and Las Vegas! I’m in desperate need for a break after a super busy October, so suffice to say I’m taking a bit of blogging break as well.

Well, I occasionally like to highlight my vacation destination on my blog, and there are tons of movies set in Las Vegas. Here are just a sampling of some of memorable movies set in Sin City:

So what’s your fave film(s) set in Vegas? 

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2. One of my most-anticipated movie of 2017 (if not THE most) is Wonder Woman. Well the second trailer just wet my appetite even more!! Seriously, it’s been over 120 years since the invention of the motion picture and FINALLY we get a feature film of a female superhero!

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I know this is just a trailer, but it’s enough to get me all verklempt on Thursday when I first saw it… thank you Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, who looks phenomenal as the bad-ass Amazonian princess!! This movie is poised to be the BEST DC superhero movie to date… but not the worst part is the wait! The movie will be released in June, 2017.

 

Now, switching gear to a fun Honest Trailer on BBC’s Sherlock, which is perfect timing considering Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Doctor Strange opens this weekend.

I had a good chuckle watching this, it’s pretty spot on! Watson as the original cumberbitch, ahah! I used to like Benedict before he became ultra-famous, as you know I have a penchant for the more unknown, underrated actors. Not saying Benedict isn’t talented but really Hollywood, there are a plethora of equally talented Brits out there too [hint: Sam Riley]😉

Anyhoo, thoughts about either one of these trailers?

3. We’re just about three months away from Oscar telecast on Feb. 26, 2017, and award season has pretty much started with TIFF, so it’s never too early to talk about Oscar contenders! Since I just came out of Twin Cities Film Fest, I’ve mentioned on my recap post that one of the films that resonated with me most is Moonlight. I had read several reviews as well as interviews with writer/director Barry Jenkins, particularly this one in Esquire.

… Moonlight is neither a black film nor a gay film. “We’re not reaching for this great statement about [race or] sexuality,” Jenkins said. “What we’re reaching for is a portrait of people who are just trying to get through life.”

It’s so refreshing that Moonlight isn’t a big political/social agenda, it feels grounded and personal and that’s why it resonates so much with me. I think anyone of all races who loves great storytelling should absolutely see this and THIS is the film I’ll be rooting for on Oscar night!

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Mahershala Ali in ‘Moonlight’

I’d be seriously miffed if this film wasn’t at least nominated, I mean if there is justice in this world, Barry Jenkins should be getting multiple noms for writing & directing, and it’d be a bonus to see Mahershala Ali up in the Best Supporting Actor category! I remember seeing him in the last Hunger Games movie and groaned to see an actor of his talent so wasted. It’s great to see him in a meaty role for once.

So guys, which film(s) are you rooting for this award season?
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4. I grew up watching Disney Princess animated films and lately we’ve got an endless supply of live-action versions. Well, out of those Princess movies, Beauty & The Beast is one I’d think would be challenging to film. But so far the casting and production stills have only made me anticipate it all the more. Behold…

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I was swooning hard looking at these pictures… surely on the visual front, it looks absolutely gorgeous and magical. I love how spot-on the casting are, esp. Belle, Beast and Gaston, which I’ve talked about here. Emma Watson looks like she’s born to play this role. Sounds like they’re going to be faithful to the animated version, and I sure hope they use the same music by Alan Menken!

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Images courtesy of EW.com

Updated 11/14: Now we’ve got its first full trailer!!

Are you as ready as I am to be swept away by this fairy tale?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is Khalid from The Blazing Reel! His question couldn’t be more timely considering this coming Tuesday, November 8 is US election day and this has been, shall we say, a most unusual election year!

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So here’s Khalid’s question:

With the 2016 Presidential Election nearing close, what is in your opinion is the best election movie? Your choice doesn’t necessarily have to be about a film that focuses on a Presidential election.

Well, I’m sure you have an opinion on this topic, So let’s hear it!


Well, that’s it for the NOVEMBER edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Take part by picking a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 

OCTOBER 2016 Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

Am I the only one still in disbelief it’s November already?? But I’m glad the temp hasn’t dipped that much yet, this week’s still gonna be in the mid 50s to 60 degrees, which is much warmer than usual, yay!

Well, it’s no surprise October is the busiest month for me, thanks to TCFF! I also managed to squeeze in a few new releases before the film fest started. Suffice to say I saw the most films in October than any other month!

Here are movies I saw in October:

New-to-me Movies

The Girl On A Train

accountant_imgThe Accountant

certainwomen_imgCertain Women

jackreacher2_imgJack Reacher: Never Go Back

TCFF Movies

bloodstripe_imgBlood Stripe

architect_imgThe Architect

funeralday_imgFuneral Day

pursuitsilence_imgIn Pursuit Of Silence

junefallingdown_imgJune Falling Down

milesbetweenus_imgMiles Between Us

scientologymovie_imgMy Scientology Movie

prisondogs_imgPrison Dogs

wordofhonour_imgWord of Honour: Reclaiming Mandela’s Promise


I haven’t reviewed these films below I saw at TCFF. Some because of a studio embargo until their local release date, and some because I simply haven’t got around to writing them. I shall try to do so in the coming weeks, but honestly, I need a bit of a blogging break.

Sweet LandThe Eagle HuntressIron Will
Burn Country | 
No Light and No Land AnywhereTrespass Against Us
Claire in Motion11:55Actors of Sound
Free CeceLion | Moonlight


The Last King (2003 TV miniseries)

Earlier this month I also got to see this miniseries, directed by Joe Wright and starring the immensely watchable Rufus Sewell. It’s the chronicle of Charles II’s time on the throne, his 10 year exile from Oliver Cromwell’s England, and his triumphant return. I haven’t finished it yet but hopefully later this month, as you know I have a penchant for period dramas starring gorgeous Brits😉

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MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

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We’ve got a tie this month! It’s tough enough to pick just TWO favorites of the month, let alone one. But these two moved me more than others and the ones I keep thinking about days after. Not only do these two feature excellent storytelling and performances, they’re also groundbreaking in many ways. It’s so rare to see female soldiers being depicted on screen, it’s even more scarce to see a good depiction of them the way Blood Stripe did.

As for Moonlight, I honestly have never seen Black sexuality/masculinity depicted in this way and it struck me just how beautiful and nuanced the story was. I’m also impressed by the casting of the protagonist, utilizing three different actors in three main stages of his life. Lets just say this film is worth the hype.


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

It’s a wrap! ‘Moonlight’ and MN-made ‘Blood Stripe’ won TCFF 2016 top awards

It’s a wrap!!

tcfflogoThe 2016 TCFF has concluded Saturday night with a festive closing night party.

I saw four films Saturday night. Starting with two great documentaries Actors Of Sound and Free Cece, followed by two powerful emotional dramas, Lion and Moonlight.

I had been crying so much watching Lion, a wonderful depiction of an incredible true story, and Moonlight was an even more emotional experience. It was a well-written, well-acted and simply powerful film about Black sexuality, featuring the kind of deep emotional intimacy I haven’t seen in many films, regardless of race and gender.

I also enjoyed the short film that preceded Actors of Sound called Boom Up!, it was hilarious! I won’t have the reviews of the films I saw in last two days of TCFF until later in November, but let’s just say I recommend all the four films I saw on closing night!

Concluding a star-studded showcase that featured more than 100 films spanned over 11 days, this is perhaps the largest-ever Twin Cities Film Fest ever with over 130 films, including shorts and documentaries! Top awards went to the critically-acclaimed coming of age drama Moonlight, which had been hailed by critics as the best film of the year and will hopefully gain more traction until the Oscars next year. Just like Room and Brooklyn last year, TCFF continues tradition in screening critical darlings that went on to win accolades at the Oscars.

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Here are the winners from Twin Cities Film Fest 2016:

Best Short Film: Lend a Hand For Love, directed by John and Amy Thompson

Audience Award – Short: Waabooz, directed by Molly Katagiri

Best Documentary: I Do? directed by Joe Brandmeier

Audience Award – Documentary: Iron Will, directed by Sergio Valenzuela

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film: They Call Us Monsters, directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film: No Light and No Land Anywhere, directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Kate Nowlin (Blood Stripe)

Best Feature Film: Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins

Audience Award – Feature Film: Blood Stripe

I’m so thrilled for Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin who won the Audience Award in the Feature Film category. As you know from my review of Blood Stripe, I was so impressed with this film. It’s so well-written, well-directed AND phenomenally-acted by Kate Nowlin, who deservedly also won Best Breakthrough Performance this weekend. I certainly think Kate’s performance is Oscar worthy!

Kate & Remy receiving the award from TCFF exec director Jatin Setia

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Kate with TCFF artistic director Steve Snyder

Another well-deserved award, that is the TCFF North Star Award goes to the massively talented indie actor Dominic Rains. You may not know who he is yet folks, but mark my words, you will! He’s already won Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year for his performance in Burn Country (originally named The Fixer), which also screened at TCFF, along with two others, Funeral Day and The Loner.

Dominic Rains with Steve + Jatin

I have seen two of the three films he’s in and was really impressed by his strong screen presence and versatility as his role in the thriller/drama Burn Country (as a former Afghan journalist) and the comedy Funeral Day (as a rather obnoxious American realtor) couldn’t be more different from each other, but yet he pulls off both roles effortlessly. Stay tuned for my in-depth interview with Dominic on his career, as well as with Funeral Day‘s director Jon Weinberg!

As I’ve mentioned in this post, I’m glad to see quite a few female filmmakers as well as female-driven films represented at TCFF! One of the finalists for Breakthrough Feature Film that I was really impressed with was Claire In Motion, which was directed by a pair of female filmmakers, featuring a terrific performance by Betsy Brandt.

It was already close to 11pm by the time I came out of the Moonlight screening, TCFF’s final film, but I couldn’t miss the award ceremony at TCFF lounge. I was only there for an hour or so and I had a blast hanging out with my friends, Kirsten Gregerson and Emmylou Barden.

me with Emmylou & Kirsten

me with Emmylou & Kirsten

I don’t know how long the party went on but clearly everyone had a great time! I’m glad I got a chance to congratulate Kate Nowlin for her award, my interview with her and her husband/collaborator Remy Auberjonois are certainly one of the highlights of covering TCFF, not just this year but of all seven years I’ve been with the film fest! Just before I left for the night, I even got a chance to chat with Remy about the enigmatic ending of Blood Stripe. Once you see it, I think you’ll know what I mean!

Thanks to my darling hubby for taking pictures of the closing party festivities! Check out his Instagram for his awesome travel photography (and I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m his wife)🙂


Congrat Jatin, Bill, Dani, Steve and Naomi for another great year!
It was so gratifying to be a part of TCFF once again… watching, discussing & celebrating indie films and the art of filmmaking.


Musings on the TCFF 2016 Award finalists … championing indie films & women in film

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I haven’t had even an hour to blog all day today as I was watching films, interviewing talents and socializing at the mixer at the beautiful festival lounge at the Shoppes at West End. My head is still spinning as I’m writing this… my body is exhausted but my spirits are high from the exhilaration of meeting so many great people. My day started with an a delightful interview with actor Dominic Rains, and got to meet Jon Weinberg (the director and star of Funeral Day) whom I had interviewed the night before. Then in the afternoon I got to meet the director of The Babymoon Bailey Kobe, as well as Kate Sloate who’s in the film’s producing team. I will post more pictures in my wrap post!

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I stopped by TCFF lounge for a couple of hours, which was even busier as the night went on. For sure the closing night party tomorrow will be a blast, and I sure wouldn’t want to miss the Award Ceremony!

Speaking of award, Twin Cities Film Fest has announced the TCFF award finalists a few days ago here. I’m so thrilled for so many of these indie filmmakers, whether it’s shorts, features or documentaries, that their hard work are being recognized. For many of them, their indie films are their sweat, blood and tears… as most of these films are made with shoestring budgets. This is why I LOVE covering TCFF, as I get to see more indie films than I otherwise would in a given month! As I meet filmmakers and talents, it’s apparent to see that the limited budget/resources just made them more innovative and creative! This is why I will always support indie films and indie filmmakers!!

2016 TCFF FINALISTS

Best Feature Film:

  • “Blood Stripe,” directed by Remy Auberjonois
  • “Burn Country,” directed by Ian Olds
  • “First Girl I Loved,” directed by Kerem Sanga
  • “Lion,” directed by Garth Davis
  • “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins.

Best Documentary:

  • “Denial,” directed by Derek Hallquist
  • “The Eagle Huntress,” directed by Otto Bell
  • “Free CeCe!” directed by Jacqueline Gares
  • “I Do?” directed by Joe Brandmeier
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela.

Best Short Film:

  • “Duffy’s Jacket,” directed by Brian Hoesing
  • “I Want You Inside Me,” directed by Alice Shindelar
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” directed by John and Amy Thompson
  • “The Story,” directed by Cameron Digwall and Carolyn Pender
  • “Twinsburg,” directed by Joe Garrity.

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film:

  • “Claire in Motion,” directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson
  • “The Eyes of My Mother,” directed by Nicolas Pesce
  • “Girl Flu,” directed by Dorie Barton
  • “June Falling Down,” directed by Rebecca Weaver
  • “No Light and No Land Anywhere,” directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film:

  • “In Pursuit of Silence,” directed by Patrick Shen
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela
  • “Prison Dogs,” directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz
  • “Tarkovsky: Time Within Time,” directed by PJ Letofsky
  • “They Call Us Monters,” directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance:

  • “Blood Stripe,” Breakthrough: Actress Kate Nowlin
  • “Donald Cried,” Breakthrough: Actor Kris Avedisian
  • “First Girl I Loved,” Breakthrough: Director Kerem Sanga
  • “Hunky Dory,” Breakthrough: Actor Tomas Pais
  • “The Other Kids,” Breakthrough: Director Chris Brown
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” Breakthrough: Directors John and Amy Thompson
  • “Moonlight,” Breakthrough: Writer Barry Jenkins.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lea Thompson

I’m so glad I got to chat with Lea when she was in town last month for TCFF gala. I also got to interview Jim Hemphill whose wonderfully-crafted drama The Trouble With The Truth was screened at one of TCFF’s Insider Series!

In addition to the staff and audience awards, the 2016 event is also bestowing two North Star Awards to visiting actors Tim Guinee (in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Sweet Land”) and Dominic Rains (starring in three TCFF films now touring the festival circuit — the James Franco-Melissa Leo mystery “Burn Country” screening Saturday night, the neo-noir thriller “The Loner” screening Friday, and the dark comedy “Funeral Day” showing Saturday morning).


Now, I haven’t seen all of the films nominated, as there are only so many hours in a day and I still had to work at my full time job the first week of TCFF. But of the ones I have seen, I definitely agree with most of the choices! I’m especially thrilled to see SO may female filmmakers and talents being represented AND recognized. I think people who read my blog and connected w/ me on Twitter know that I’m not only a big champion of indie films, but also women in film! It’s clear that indie films are the place for women and diverse talents thrive… so I’m glad I got to see many of them thanks to TCFF!

Whether in front of or behind the camera, it always perks me up to see women storytellers, creating and/or portraying multi-dimensional, fully fleshed-out female characters and bringing their stories to life. One of my all time favorite performances is Kate Nowlin in Blood Stripeand having chatted with her in person, she is an inspiration both on and off screen!

Both Prison Dogs and The Eagle Huntress have become two of my all time favorite documentaries! I can’t review the latter until mid November where it’s released here in Minnesota, but I can’t recommend it enough. I guarantee you’d fall in love with 13-year-old Aisholpan who defied the odds to become a champion eagle huntress!

mnwiftIt’s always a blast hanging out with friends and new people you meet at TCFF lounge. But tonight is especially awesome as I got to hang out with two ladies from Minnesota Women in Film and Television (MN WIFT), Joanne Liebeler and Deborah Fiscus. I love their positive energy and warm personality, it’s always encouraging and inspiring to be around such wonderful people!

I feel so blessed to have met to these smart, accomplished, yet warm & lovely ladies, so thank you to my pal Kirsten Gregerson for introducing us! I’m definitely going to join the organization and learn from local women who work in film, television, and new media in Minnesota.

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with MN WIFT’s Joanne, Deborah and my pal Kirsten Gregerson

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Well, tomorrow is the last day of TCFF already! It’s a jam-packed closing day with three gala screenings: LION, Moonlight AND Burn Country, with its star Dominic Rains attending!

I’ll be seeing FOUR movies tomorrow, starting with the documentary on foley artists, Actors Of Sound at 10:15AM, which ends with the closing film Moonlight at 8:30PM! I’m writing this past midnight and in dire need of sleep, but I’m excited for what’s in store for me tomorrow!

 


TCFF 2016 Short Film Reviews: ‘The Clubhouse’ + ‘Hookin’ Up’ + ‘The Mermaid Story’ + ‘Twinsburg’

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Can’t believe we only have two more days of TCFF! It’s been quite a whirlwind couple of weeks for me, and I’ve been running pretty much on adrenaline! It’s been so awesome meeting new people, from filmmakers, talents, producers, etc., it’s been so exhilarating and inspiring! I’ll be sure to include pictures in my closing night post!

Today we’ve got some reviews of short films that played during TCFF. I think it’s great there are plenty of short films being screened at the film fest, which feature innovative stories that talented filmmakers capture within a short amount of time. Thanks again Sarah for all your great reviews!

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Club House

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“The Clubhouse,” a seven minute short film directed by and co-written by Dan Delano, tackles one of the vexing issues of a boy’s youth – what to do when a girl moves into the neighborhood and wants to join your game of Dungeons and Dragons? “Girls don’t have any battle strategies,” one boy says dismissively.

I’m always impressed when filmmakers can present a fully fleshed out story in such a short amount of time and this effort is no exception. What ensues is a fantastical “Game of Thrones” inspired thriller that allows the warrior princess to prove her mettle. As many might remember from their youth, she receives acceptance in the most unassuming of ways – an invitation to get ice cream. How does this all come together in seven minutes? Take a “short” break and find out for yourself.

Hookin’ Up

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In “Hookin’ Up,” Jessica (Katie Cunningham) and Peter (Timmy L’Heureux) attempt to have a “perfectly normal Tinder date.” I’m not sure if either have any personal experience with the popular dating app but they do a fine job tackling the awkward conversation that follows. “Oh you like to travel? How orig…too bad your haircut isn’t allowed out of the country,” Katie muses.

“In my last relationship we bought a printer together and when we broke up it was just awkward,” says Peter. The nine minute short film directed by Michael Busch is an unassuming ode to the sometimes bizarre world of relationships…and Scattergories.

The Mermaid Story

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“The Mermaid Story,” the 14 minute short film from Director James Snapko, would have fit in well at the Twin Cities Film Fest in previous years as one of the educational subjects the festival has tackled is the issue of bullying. Although short, this movie’s narrative proves what can happen when people are pushed too far and constantly told that they are stupid or not good enough.

The story centers on two brothers, Curt (Max Giles) and Ace (Chase Hammond), who own a bar in Northern Minnesota. (As the movie was shot on location in Outing, some might recognize local landmarks.) When Curt comes in after a day on the lake and tells of seeing a mermaid in the water, his bar tale is met with skepticism. “What an idiot,” they say.

Giles does a good job of conveying the hurt and anger someone can feel when they are dismissed indifferently. When his brother says angrily, “Okay, show me your water whore” a day on the lake turns into something much more sinister. This film is a good reminder that words do matter.


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Twinsburg

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I grew up with fraternal twin brothers, so I’m immediately intrigued by the premise of identical twin brothers reunited for the largest twins gathering at Twinsburg Ohio. It’s a semi-autobiographical tale from director Joe Garrity, who stars in the film with his real-life twin Phil Garrity. They both have a certain deadpan delivery that’s really a hoot to watch.

Joe plays Jerry, who’s still sentimental about his twin identity and thus more excited about attending the festival than his reluctant brother Paul. It’s amusing to see them riding a tandem bike in their matching costume-y suits, and participate in multiple festival competitions from talent show, most-alike contest to singleton hunt in the woods.

Filmed at the 2014 Twins Days Festival, it’s a quirky, funny yet bittersweet tale of coming to terms with how their childhood tradition no longer fits their changing adult lives. There’s a hint of romance with fellow twins who seem more comfortable doing things apart. Joe Garrity is certainly a talented filmmaker with comic talents, I’m curious to see what else he’d come up with in the future. 

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What’s in store for closing day!

Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews with Harold Mintz (of 1-800-Give-Us-Your-Kidney short), actor Dominic Rains (who’ll receive the TCFF North Star Award tomorrow night), and director Jon Weinberg (Funeral Day).

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Jon & Dominic in ‘Funeral Day’

FUNERAL DAY’s second screening:
Saturday, October 29 – 10:30am 

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TCFF 2016 Reviews: ‘Oxenfree’ + ‘The Eyes Of My Mother’

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‘Oxenfree’ Review

oxenfree Many of us may remember that expression we used at the end of our games of Hide and Seek – “Olly, Olly, Oxenfree!” The longing to return to juvenile games and stories is a theme in “Oxenfree,” the feature film that had its world premiere at the Twin Cities Film Fest last night. I had the pleasure of being in attendance with the director (Dan Glaser) and actors Steven Molony (Aaron), Paul Vonasek (Roy) and Timothy Lane (Benjamin). Undoubtedly there were many family and friends in attendance as the cast and crew received loud applause when the ending credits rolled.

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Oxenfree tells the story of three estranged foster brothers who return to the family cabin to rediscover the ruins of their childhood kingdom “Oxenfree.” Shot in the Fargo/Moorhead area, I appreciated the beautiful fall scenery throughout the movie. As it only features three actors (aside from a brief appearance of Kelli Breslin as Katie, Aaron’s girlfriend), the strength of this movie really comes from the actors’ camaraderie. It’s obvious these young men enjoy working together and their affinity for each other makes their characters more believable.

The one quibble I had with the film was that it didn’t seem to be able to decide whether it was a comedy or a drama so at times it seemed stuck in a muddling middle. (Even the actors at times looked confused about how to play a scene.) After Roy reclaims his “throne” (an old toilet) in the middle of the forest, he takes a cell phone call from his wife. And then moments of levity like this diverge into a medical drama concerning one of the other brothers. The production value of this movie was there, it just seemed like the script needed a little more work.

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Am I saying I didn’t enjoy the film? I am not. One of the strengths of a film fest is to see movies at many different levels of development. During the post show Q&A, Timothy Lane (Benjamin) talked about how this was the first film he has acted in and discussed the technical side of learning to act on camera. Paul Vonasek also shared how they came up with part of the plot – “We didn’t really look alike but we wanted to do a movie together so that’s how we came up with the idea of being foster brothers.” Oxenfree isn’t going to change your life but was it an enjoyable way to spend a cold and rainy evening? Yes.


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‘The Eyes Of My Mother’ Review

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Writing and directing a film that is both beautiful and horrifying isn’t easy- especially on the first try, and especially at the young age of 26 (which makes me, at 28, feel like a total underachiever). But newcomer Nicolas Pesce has managed it with his already critically-acclaimed movie, The Eyes of my Mother. While it has its flaws, it is an incredible debut, and it’s a promising start to what will hopefully be an illustrious career for Pesce.

The Eyes of my Mother is about Francisca (Kika Magalhaes), a young woman who tragically loses her mother an early age, and, through the trauma and following isolation, develops an unnerving hobby. I won’t say much more, for fear of spoiling the plot, but I will say that Francisca’s mother used to be a surgeon, and the two of them would practice dissections on cows, so the girl knows how to use a knife. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest from there.

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The movie begins on a tense note, and is able to hold that suspense throughout most of the film, thanks to both Pesce’s skillful directing and the cast’s strong acting. There is very little background music, which creates an unnerving atmosphere. There are frequent shots from the first-person perspective and just over the actors’ shoulders, obscuring their faces, creating both an air of uncertainty and an opportunity for the actors to demonstrate their acting abilities by relying solely on their line delivery. Shooting the film in black and white was an excellent choice as well; it enhanced the shadowy scenery, and the starkness made the tone even more unsettling.

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That’s not to say the movie is without flaws. It’s a relatively short film, clocking in at only an hour and sixteen minutes, which doesn’t allow much time for character development- and in a movie where so much of the film centers around one character, it was especially needed. The short runtime also meant certain plot points weren’t properly explained. Ambiguity in horror movies can be a powerful tool, but too much can confuse the audience and take them out of the experience.

While The Eyes of my Mother isn’t a perfect movie, it is still a stunning first film from a promising young talent, and I look forward to seeing more from him.



TWIN CITIES FILM FEST ANNOUNCES AWARDS FINALISTS!

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Moonlight,’ ‘Blood Stripe’ and ‘Iron Will’ lead 2016 awards contenders…
many finalists are set to screen during TCFF’s closing weekend!

Check out the full list of finalists here


Check out some of the studio features
playing in the final days of TCFF!

Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews and talent interviews!