In-flight Watching Recap: The Wedding Guest + The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Thank goodness for in-flight entertainment! I was on a trip to Eastern Europe recently, in fact I just got back about a week ago. Sleep are often elusive on long flights, so I used the time to catch up on movies I’ve been curious to see.

I rewatched parts of Aladdin on my way to Europe and on my way back, I watched most of Gone With The Wind (yeah I know, an odd choice but I was in the mood for it). But these are two features I watched that I haven’t seen before, glad I did!

THE WEDDING GUEST (2018)

I’ve been a fan of Dev Patel for some time, and I think he’s really grown as an actor since his debut in Slumdog Millionaire over a decade ago. When you’ve got a brooding hitman-type on a mission to kidnap a bride-to-be the night before her wedding, you don’t immediately think of Patel. But that’s precisely why I’m curious to see him here, and I think he’s quite compelling playing against type. In most of his previous films (well except for LION) he’s often the jolly guy, but he barely cracked a smile in this entire film!

Directed by Michael Winterbottom, the opening sequence shows the unnamed Patel preparing for a journey from London to Pakistan. We have no idea what’s on his agenda, but with a sequence of buying guns, roll of duct tape, etc. we know he’s up to no good. It wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that indeed he indeed kidnaps the bride-to-be (Radhika Apte), but there’s more than meets the eye. In fact, the core of the film centers on their unconventional bond. It’s not stockholm syndrome however, as we don’t quite know who actually plans for the whole thing.

The movie itself is as reserved and moody as the protagonist. The neo-noir style is enhanced by the music (that’s reminiscent of Jóhann Jóhannsson’s style) and gorgeous cinematography, making the most of the India/Pakistan locations. I know the pacing might be a problem to some, but I was quite invested in the story as the movie went on. Even watching it on the plane, I wasn’t bored by it. I find Patel to be a magnetic presence, and a pretty convincing enigmatic figure. But it’s Apte who’s quite a revelation here, and it’s certainly a juicy role for a woman of color who rarely gets to turn the table on the male protagonist.

It’s too bad the film didn’t do well after its premiere at TIFF. I highly recommend this if you’re a fan of Patel, or if you’re up for an off-the-beaten path psychological thriller that’s more about the character development than a well-choreographed action sequence.

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)

I’m glad Delta has this Alex Gibney documentary as I don’t have HBO. I’ve been curious about this film since I read a lengthy article about Theranos’ founder Elizabeth Holmes, the youngest self-made billionaire who turns out to be a fraud. Apparently the film’s producer met with Holmes early in development (per IMDb), before criminal charges were filed, to determine whether she could be interviewed for the film. Gibney decided to portray how Holmes crafted her company and her own image seen by the public, which is inherently fascinating. Holmes herself is perhaps a documentarian’s dream given how controversial yet magnetic she is, it’s no wonder she was able to fool so many prominent figures to invest in her company (Walmart founder Sam Walton, Rupert Murdoch, etc) and people like Henry Kissinger, George Schultz to be on her company’s board.

Gibney’s documentaries are extremely well-crafted and this one is no different. There are plenty of archival footage of Holmes and the miniature blood testing labs she dubbed the “Edisons” in the Theranos Palo Alto headquarters. Most were taken before she was charged, and some were from Theranos’ own promotional videos. Interestingly enough, we learn that ‘Edison’ is actually a perfect moniker for her blood testing machine, given the man known as one of America’s greatest inventors perfected the ‘fake it until you make it’ mantra. In any case, there are also interviews with whistleblowers, such as former Theranos lab technician Erika Cheung and Tyler Schultz (his grandfather was one of the board members). Of course, the one crucial interview is with John Carreyrou, The Wall Street Journal journalist who first accused Theranos of misrepresentation.

This is the kind of documentary that makes you shake your head repeatedly and also gets you riled up on how someone could deceive people and be allowed to do so for so long. One can’t help but think of her ‘white privilege’ upbringing that contributes to this whole thing, as so many important people were so easily swayed by her claims and willing to help her without investigating further. It also gives me chills how she went so far as making a deal with Walgreens with her blood testing procedures that compromises many people’s health.

Gibney is quoted on IMDb as saying “She made the documentary she wanted me to invest in and I used it to a different purpose.” While he didn’t outright condemn Holmes for her actions, it’s hard to feel neutral about such a fraud, especially one who’s as arrogant and defiant as Holmes.


So have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!

TCFF Day 5 and 6 Highlights: MN Shorts, Ghost Light, The Armstrong Lie documentary, They Will Outlive Us All

TCFF_2013CoverageBnr

Here are what’s in store for Day 5 and Day 6 at TCFF. As you can see, there’s something cool to look forward to every single day, and there’s always something for everyone! I’m a bit sidelined by a cold today so I had to skip one of the films I had gotten a ticket for. But hey, there are still a bunch of films in store for this week so I’m taking LOTS of vitamins so I can be on the up and up again covering for TCFF 😀

DAY 5 Highlights – Oct 21

MN Shorts Part 1

Showing: Monday, October 21st at 6:15 pm

A collection of best shorts from the state of MN

  • The Tale of Cuthbert – 5 minutes
    Cuthbert is a zombie who just doesn’t fit in with the other zombies. His brother is the leader and tries to teach Cuthbert the techniques to being a better zombie. But can Cuthbert change who he is? Or will he be banished?
  • DeadOfWinter_ShortDead of Winter – 8 minutes
    Running low on supplies needed for her survival, Bethany Stevens (Lisie Krohnfeldt) is forced to venture out into an inhospitable world full of frozen zombies, bitter cold and loneliness.
  • The Gold Sparrow – 13 minutes
    Set in a crumbling black-and-white futuristic metropolis, void of creativity and color, the city is traversed by The Gold Sparrow and her nefarious side kick, The Ring Leader.
  • The First Date – 36 minutes
    How far will fate go? Jack and Rachel are about to find out. Destined to be soul mates, these two are embarking on a lifelong love. There’s only one problem – they have to get past their first date. 
  • A Letter Home – 4 minutes
    An isolated man maintains hope in a hopeless situation. A LETTER HOME is Karl Warnke’s directorial debut.
  • Clutch – 4 minutes
    Tommy has been made an offer he literally cannot refuse. “One ball, one strike and I’ll let you live”.
  • Duluth is Horrible– 17 minutes
    A series of vignettes chronicling a few lonely people in Duluth, MN searching for a connection in a bleak winter. 

Ghost Light

GhostLight_MNfilm

Showing: Monday, October 21st at 8:45 pm

Special Guests: John Gaspard (Director) & Cast and Crew

When a key prop goes missing during an amateur theater company performance, the actors suspect the theater ghosts are acting up. The group decides to spend the night in the eccentric old building, watching for paranormal activity.

This feature was filmed at Theatre in the Round here in Minneapolis. Here’s the 30-second preview:


Joe from the MN Movie Man Blog calls it ‘…an enjoyably well-put together film… Though its pretense may suggest a spooky ghost tale, this is a delicate, well-observed drama that has its heart, mind, and earthly spirit in the right place.’  Read the full review »


DAY 6 Highlights – Oct 22

The Armstrong Lie

TheArmstrongLie

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:30pm

Directed by Alex Gibney

Four years ago, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks) was commissioned to film Lance Armstrong’s second comeback, for the 2009 Tour de France. Years later, following Armstrong’s cheating confessions, Gibney returned to his original source material, discovering in the process an electrifying, red-handed portrait of a liar in action.

This is one of the documentary I was looking forward to the most and certainly is the most high profile playing at TCFF. Gibney is an Oscar winner and is no stranger to tackling a hot-button topic (ENRON, Wikileaks) and has won an Oscar for Taxi to The Dark Side, an exposé on the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba. I find the shift in focus of this documentary from a comeback story to one of the biggest scandal in the world of sport is particularly intriguing. It’s interesting that the producers of the film were initially big fans of Armstrong.

They Will Outlive Us All

TheyWillOutliveUsAll

Showing: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 9:30pm

Directed by Patrick Shearer

In the years since Hurricane Sandy, New York has been brought to its knees by a series of “Frankenstorms”.  Roommates Margot and Daniel attempt to survive this “new” New York by avoiding it at all costs. But with the advent of three strange deaths in their Brooklyn building, the world they’ve been hiding from is knocking hard on the back door. It’s time for our heroes to kill their TV, lay off the booze, and put out the roach… Or all of NYC could fall into the clutches of something that can’t even clutch.


TCFFTickets

Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.


Any one of these films caught your eye, folks?