FlixChatter Review: KODACHROME (2017)

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When this title flashed on Netflix, my hubby was instantly intrigued because he’s an amateur photographer who’s been dabbling in music scoring. The movie blends the subject of photography and music but essentially is a family drama featuring a struggling music executive Matt and his dying estranged father Ben. They end up taking a road trip together fro New York to Kansas in order to process Ben’s last rolls of Kodachrome film before the one and only remaining lab closes and his captured moments are gone forever.

The title refers to the brand name for a color reversal film introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1935, and this film was based on a 2010 New York Times article titled For Kodachrome Fans, Road Ends at Photo Lab in Kansas. Jason Sudekis plays Matt, Ed Harris is her famous photojournalist Ben, and Elizabeth Olsen plays Ben’s nurse Zooey. 

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There seems to be SO many films where the character suffers terminal illness that it becomes kind of a cliché. I do like road movies and the presence of Ed Harris as a curmudgeon man whose past is behind him actually makes for some amusing dialogue. I had just seen WandaVision AND Ted Lasso back to back so I’ve got to admit that the main reason I saw this was to see Wanda and Ted in the same movie. Of course after a while, the gleeful amusement wore off and we’re left with two so-so characters. Somehow I knew the two characters would end up together despite their initial not-so-cute meet up. For the most part, the most interesting relationship is the father/daughter one, so the romance feels a bit like a third wheel. There are some scenes where Matt and Zooey talk about their favorite music and bands, but somehow the whole thing feels forced as it seems to only be a contrivance for the two characters to bond.

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I think this is the first time I saw Sudekis in a dramatic role, and though he’s not as effortless in that genre, I think he’s proven to be a versatile actor. For sure he’s instantly sympathetic and comes across as a genuinely nice guy despite saying some very nasty things. I quite like the way Matt’s journey plays out in the film as it peels back the layers to tell us why he’s so resentful of his dad. There are some memorable scenes of them visiting Ben’s brother on their journey and naturally tensions rise as uncle Dean(Bruce Greenwood) and his wife actually raised Matt. Zooey’s character on the other hand, isn’t fleshed out at all, but at least she’s more than just the token girlfriend.

The film feels personal to director Mark Raso, his passion for the subject matter is palpable. DP Alan Poon shot the film beautifully on 35mm Kodak film so the visuals are lovely as well. Unfortunately, the sentimental melodrama and predictability dampens it from being truly great. You can see where the story is going long before it happens, which takes away some of the key moments. I knew exactly what the contents of Ben’s Kodachrome films before they are revealed and that Matt would come to defend his dad during a crucial moment that affects his career. Those moments are still able to tug my heartstrings however. The really poignant moments comes from Ed Harris, especially when they’ve reached Kansas and he’s recognized by other photographers. The character almost feel like it’s based on a real person and I could imagine a photojournalist who constantly travels would probably have a strained family relationship.

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Kodachrome isn’t the greatest family drama out there, but still worth a watch for Harris’ performance that always elevates the material.

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TCFF 2015 Indies Reviews: Krisha & Wildlike

TCFF 2015 is now done and winners have been announced, but the coverage hasn’t quite wrapped just yet 😉 Today we’ve got two indie dramas, each starring a strong female lead (always welcomed in my book) telling a compelling story. So hope you get to see them when they’re opened in your area!

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Krisha

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It’s fitting that the Twin Cities Film Fest showed “Krisha” as we will all shortly be thrown again into the holiday season, a time of year that can be full of tumult for many people. This feature debut by Trey Edward Shults, which won the Grand Jury and Audience Award when it had its world premiere at South by Southwest last year, focuses on one woman’s attempt to overcome her troubled history and reconcile with her wary family over the Thanksgiving holiday.

While the supporting cast members have infrequent but powerful scenes, the movie really belongs to Krisha Fairchild, the silver-haired matron of addiction and dysfunction, who delivers an unflinching glimpse of someone in the throes of an emotional breakdown. Fairchild is Shults’ real life aunt and I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like to film your aunt portraying a woman battling but ultimately unable to overcome her internal demons. Krisha_1There is a lot that is not explained in this movie, but the camera work helps us fill in some of the blanks – Krisha, staying at her sister’s house, is given a room at the top of the stairs where she is sometimes seen ominously glaring at the extended family downstairs. Numerous scenes of the turkey cooking seem to be a metaphor for a disaster soon to come – emotions rise as the temperature heats up, drawing us closer as everything goes to hell.Krisha_2The one quibble I have with the film is the use of strange tonal music during the first 30 minutes – perhaps it’s supposed to be a harbinger of upcoming drama, but I just found it really distracting. Ultimately though, you’re left with a mix of compassion and horror for a woman one of her relatives coldly tells her in one scene, “You are heartbreak incarnate.”

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Wildlike

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A troubled teenager named Mackenzie (Ella Purnell) is sent to stay with her uncle because her mom is having some personal issues. Her uncle (Brian Geraghty) lives in Alaska, Mackenzie who’s living in Seattle did not like what she sees. There’s an uneasy feeling that Mackenzie doesn’t like being around her uncle. We later find out that her uncle has been sexuality molested her. While on a site seeing with her uncle and his friend at some park, Mackenzie decided to escape. Now lost in a city that she’s not familiar with, Mackenzie broke into a hotel room and here is where she met a hiker named Rene (Bruce Greenwood). Rene has come to Alaska to hike its wilderness and Mackenzie wants to tag along. After some arguing, the two set out in the Alaskan landscape and got to know each other.

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Newcomer Purnell was quite good as the lead; she basically appeared in about 99% of the movie. She was very believable as the troubled teen that obviously has been abused throughout her young life. I’ve always been a fan of Greenwood and here he’s good very good as sort of a father figure to Mackenzie. His character also has some trouble background and he’s in Alaska to heal some wounds. Brian Geraghty was decent as the creepy uncle even though his time on the screen was pretty small.

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Writer and director Frank Hall Green did a good job of setting up the mood and never try to be preachy with the story. With so many beautiful locations in the Alaskan wilderness, I was kind of disappointed that he and his cinematographer decided to shoot the movie in a gritty documentary style. But despite the gloomy look of the movie, there were still some very nice shots of the lush beauty of the Alaska’s landscapes. A movie like this tends to have an ending that would either shock you or just downright depressing, I’m glad Green didn’t go that route and even though the ending was kind of ambiguous, it was satisfying to me.

Wildlike is not a great movie but a good one that deserves to be seen mostly for the two leads’ performances and some of its beautiful scenery.


Stay tuned for Part II of the TCFF Short Films reviews & my Top 10 Favorites of this year’s film fest!


What do you think about either one of these films?

 

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: Mao’s Last Dancer

Happy Friday folks! Time for a new trailer since I skipped last week.

From Oscar nominated Aussie director Bruce Beresford (Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy), it’s a drama based on the autobiography by Li Cunxin. At the age of 11, Li was plucked from a poor Chinese village by Madame Mao’s cultural delegates and taken to Beijing to study ballet. In 1979, during a cultural exchange to Texas, he fell in love with an American woman. Two years later, he managed to defect and went on to perform as a principal dancer for the Houston Ballet and as a principal artist with the Australian Ballet.

While I was browsing the Apple trailer site, the poster caught my attention because the color scheme reminded me of Gone with the Wind with its fiery red and yellow combination. I love how graceful and melancholic it looks. For a second I thought the male dancer was played by this hunky Korean actor Daniel Henney, but it’s actually Chinese ballet dancer Chi Cao in his debut film. It’s always tricky when you have a story about dancing, as the believability factor hinges on how the dance sequences are executed. Do you get an actor and train him to dance, or get a dancer and train him to act? Since they go with the latter, I hope he pulls off the emotional scenes.

Joan Chen as Li’s mother, Bruce Greenwood as the British dance instructor, and Kyle MacLachlan as Li’s attorney round up the cast. Stories of forbidden love always appeal to me, and Li’s story is certainly worth telling. Alas, most likely it’ll be a dvd viewing for me, as it’s only going to be out in limited release in the US starting August 20.