Twin Cities Film Fest Fall Preview Gala 2018 kicks off September 6 w/ special guest Steve Zahn!

The Twin Cities Film Fest is thrilled to announce that acclaimed actor and Minnesota native Steve Zahn will be the recipient of this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award, presented each year at the organization’s annual Festival Preview Gala which kicks off the new TCFF season.

Limited tickets is available here for the Thursday, Sept 6. dinner;  all proceeds go to the organization to support expanded programming and educational events.

Over the past 25 years, Zahn has amassed an unforgettable body of work, appearing in some of the most iconic and critically-acclaimed films of his time. From “Reality Bites” to “That Thing You Do!”, “Out of Sight,” “Shattered Glass,” “Rescue Dawn,” “War for Planet of the Apes,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” and more recently “Valley of the Boom” and “Captain Fantastic,” TCFF organizers cited the range and diversity of his work in bestowing him with this year’s top honor.

“Steve Zahn is one of the most talented, successful and recognizable actors working in Hollywood today,” said TCFF Executive Director Jatin Setia. “We’re so honored to be able to celebrate a Minnesota son who has run so far with his talents, and left such an indelible mark on today’s movie industry.”

In this article in Star Tribune, Zahn says that he doesn’t feel like he’s ready to accept a lifetime achievement award. But I think he deserves it and he’s definitely a much more versatile actor than people give him credit for. Can’t believe he’s been acting for 25 years (and that he’s 50 years old! He doesn’t look a day over 35!)  I enjoyed his performance in That Thing You Do!, Forces of Nature, You’ve Got Mail, Shattered Glass, Captain Fantastic, and even his voice work in War for the Planet of the Apes as the hilarious Bad Ape. He’s got such a charming likability about him that is instantaneous,  and like his That Thing You Do! director Tom Hanks, he’s got that ‘everyman’ quality about him.

I for one can’t wait to see Mr. Zahn and hopefully get to meet him in person and thank him for entertaining us all these years!


GALA DETAILS

The Festival Preview Gala, hosted this year at the Metropolitan Ballroom, is TCFF’s annual industry celebration, fundraiser and unveiling of the new film festival schedule. The program includes dinner, drinks, red carpet, silent auction, honors and select trailers for films that will screen at this October’s festival. Zahn and other honorees will be in attendance to receive their awards.

Steve will be interviewed by local TV & Radio personality Jason Matheson for an intimate reflection on his inspiring body of work. Shannon Paul will emcee the evening with her hilarious banter as your favorite cinematic non-profit reveals TCFF 2018’s most anticipated films premiering this at October’s festival, followed by an intimate evening with Steve Zahn.

6pm-7pm:
Reception
Silent Auction
Red Carpet
Live Music

7:30pm:
Dinner
Previews & Giving- Emceed by Miss Shannan Paul
Retrospective with Steve Zahn- Hosted by Jason Matheson

GET TICKETS »

VIP Table – $1,500 (seats 8 guests)
Table Host – $1,000 (seats 8 guests)
Individual Dinner – $150
General Admission – $40 (non-dinner option)

MEAL OPTIONS:

  • Option 1: Chicken Breast w/Dried Cherry Sauce on Potato Puree & Green Beans w/sweet peppers
  • Option 2: Saffron Pappardelle Pasta with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Artichokes and Wild Mushrooms

LOCATION:

The Metropolitan Ballroom
5418 Wayzata Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55416


 

Top 10 BEST Movies of 2016

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I always wait until at least the first week of January before I made my top 10 list of the year prior, and this year is no different. Now, last year I combined my top 10 best and worst in a single post. This year I will just focus on the BEST list and do a WORST (or I’d say disappointing) list in a separate post. Fortunately my worst list is far less extensive than the best one, as I can only count with one hand the worst movies I saw this past year.

Now, I selected films released between January – December 2016, including the limited releases (i.e. Hidden Figures) which opened in select cities in December. Some of these might’ve opened internationally prior to 2016, but I’m using the USA release dates or the fact that they opened at a local film festival. As customary, this list is a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply-moving, thought-provoking, and indelible.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. The Lobster (full review)

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One of the strangest films I’ve seen last year and it’s also one of the most original concept I’ve ever seen. Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou created an intriguing commentary on love and relationship that’ll make you ponder about it for days. I’ve loved sci-fi concepts that’s more grounded in its presentation and the world the characters inhabit in this movie certainly looks plausible. It’s not a perfect film, but still a brilliant one that earns top marks for originality and thought-provoking ideas.

9. Love & Friendship (full review)

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Most of you already know I love Jane Austen’s work, though this one is unlike her most famous work like Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility. This one is based on Austen’s lesser-known work where we have a saucy protagonist who is as deviously-cunning as she is impeccably dressed. It’s the first film by writer/director Whit Stillman I’ve seen so far and it’s a delight! I really enjoyed Kate Beckinsale‘s in the title role and a delightfully-hilarious turn by Tom Bennett, one of my fave discoveries of 2016. Funny, witty, and so gorgeous to look at, this is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.

8. Captain Fantastic (full review)

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When I saw the trailer for the first time I knew this is a role perfect for Viggo Mortensen who plays an intellectual free spirit, a Renaissance man who’s set in his ways. It’s a fascinating slice of an unorthodox family of seven, Viggo as the unconventional dad and his six kids, following the sudden death of his wife.Set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, themes of parenting and coming-of-age blend seamlessly. Certainly a film that subscribe to the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination, that really matters. Like The Lobster, it’s one of the most eccentric films I’ve seen this year, one that definitely left an indelible impression on me.

7. Hidden Figures

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I haven’t got a chance to review this one as I just saw it last week. As soon as I’m done watching this historical drama, thought to myself that I’m glad I waited to post my top 10 list! Since this one had opened in limited release in December, it’s still technically a 2016 movie. Starring a trifecta of terrific Black actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe (who was also great in Moonlight), it tells a pivotal moment in American history in a heartwarming yet poignant manner. There are moments throughout the women’s journey that made me angry and sad, but the film is brimming with such uplifting optimism and hope. La La Land isn’t the only film that spoke about dreaming big, but the difference is, the visionary trio crossed race and gender lines to achieve what’s seemingly impossible. The quintessential inspirational film that every person, young or old, should see. As some critics put it, it’s a cinematic nourishment for the soul.

6. La La Land (full review)

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Ahhh, the critical darling of the year. It might’ve been around TIFF time last Fall when the buzz surrounds this modern musical started gaining steam. It never let up since that by the time I sat down to see it in mid December, I was a bit worried it won’t live up to such a potent hype. Well, thankfully it was indeed an enjoyable experience, with fun musical numbers, gorgeous cinematography and lively music. An unabashedly dreamy and stylish affair, I could see why it swept many off their feet. For me though, the romance wasn’t exactly swoon-worthy, but it’s the ‘fools who dream’ theme that resonated with me emotionally. It’s that key audition scene performed wonderfully by Emma Stone that I remember most about this film, the one that got me bawling as I felt as if the movie was speaking to me directly.

5. Zootopia (full review)

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In a year full of animated features, Zootopia is the only one that deserves to be on my top 10 list (note: I haven’t seen MOANA yet). Disney is sort of catching up to Pixar in terms of storytelling. Its themes of overcoming prejudices feels as timely as ever, whilst still being an enjoyable ride from start to finish. I also love the fact that Zootopia is NOT an animated musical that occasionally burst into songs. The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the smart rabbit Judy Hopps, the movie’s adorable protagonist. It’s also chockfull of wonderful characters that are easy to root for, which made for a fun, enjoyable ride of a movie that’s also smart AND has a big heart. I always appreciate animated features that can cater to adults as well as kids, and Zootopia is certainly a great example of that.

4. Loving (full review)

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There are few films that came out in 2016 that couldn’t have been more timely. One is my number 7 pick, and the other is this one. Unlike the more sensational Birth Of A Nation, which was plagued by rape allegations of its creator and star), the beauty of Loving is how personal it feels. It doesn’t come across as a ‘film with a message’, though it certainly contains a stinging commentary of race in America. The story is even more powerful because filmmaker Jeff Nichols focuses on the journey of Richard and Mildred Loving, instead of being concerned about making a political statement. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton portrayed the Lovings with such quiet grace and sincerity. Theirs is a story that must be told, and the script, direction and performance all work beautifully to bring that to life.

3. Arrival (full review)

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Jeff Nichols and Denis Villeneuve are two emerging filmmakers in the past decade who have continually churned out excellent work. So it’s no surprise their latest work end up on my top 10 list. With any great science-fiction, the best ones are those that remind us of our humanity, and that is the case with Arrival. It’s rare to see a film that treads a familiar ground, aliens visiting earth, yet still manages to be original and truly thought-provoking. The linguistic aspect is something I haven’t seen before in a sci-fi movie, and it’s even more compelling when the core of the story is a deeply personal one. Amy Adams ought to have swept every award this year, I think she deserved it more than Emma Stone in La La Land. Her quiet yet affecting performance is superb here, she is truly the heart and soul of the film. The contemplative nature of the film is far from boring, in fact it makes it even more haunting and enigmatic. It won’t be a hyperbole to call it one of the best sci-fi dramas ever produced, and I think it will stand the test of time.

2. Hunt For the Wilderpeople (full review)

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One of the biggest travesties of this year’s Golden Globes, and there are many, is that this film was NOT nominated in the Best Comedy/Musical category. Boy, I’d be hard pressed to find a funnier film than this one, made by yet another emerging filmmaker who’s a force to be reckoned with. Written and directed by Taika Waititi, it’s a riotous adventure movie I could watch over and over. Pairing a veteran actor, Sam Neill, with 13-year-old newcomer Julian Dennison made for a brilliant duo, I’d welcome a sequel with those two in another zany journey through New Zealand wilderness! It’s uproariously funny but also has a huge heart, not relying on crude gags masquerading as *comedy* Hollywood churn out these days. This is the only one of two films I gave a 5/5 rating this year, and it’s destined to be a comedy classic.

1. Moonlight (full review)

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This is the second movie of 2016 that I gave a full 5/5 rating to. A poignant coming-of-age story of a young boy living struggling with his identity and sexuality, this film is masterfully-directed by Barry Jenkins. I have no qualms calling it a masterpiece, considering the challenge of using three actors to portray a single character, Chiron, in three different stages of his life. The transition between the three time periods is handled well, it never feels abrupt or jarring. The combination of newbie actors and established ones make up one of the strongest ensemble cast of the year, led by the charismatic Mahershala Ali. 

Few films hit me as hard as Moonlight did. I was so emotionally-invested in Chiron and I often have tears in my eyes when I think about his arduous life journey. The films also deftly broke stereotypes, challenging our perceptions of what we think of masculinity, especially amongst the Black community. I was also in awe by the poignant, elegant and graceful storytelling style of a subject matter rarely depicted on screen. A triumphant film through and through.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Pretty much every movie that made my BEST list of the first half of 2016 would count as honorable mentions. So combined with those that were released in the latter half of the year, here are the 20 films released last year that I was impressed with (in alphabetical order):

  1. Anthropoid
  2. A Bigger Splash
  3. Blood Stripe
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. Deadpool
  6. The Eagle Huntress (doc)
  7. Equity
  8. The Fencer
  9. The Jungle Book
  10. Lion
  11. The Magnificent Seven
  12. Midnight Special
  13. Pete’s Dragon
  14. Pride + Prejudice + Zombies
  15. Prison Dogs (doc)
  16. Queen of Katwe
  17. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  18. The Shallows
  19. Sing Street
  20. Sully

What I missed in 2016

There are still some highly-rated films that came out last year that I haven’t seen, yet… Elle, Manchester By The Sea, Fences, Jackie, Kubo and the Two Strings, 20th Century Women, Neruda, Silence, amongst others.


So that’s my BEST list of 2016. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

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Bye bye 2016! End of year recap & musings on favorite things we saw this year

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Whaddayaknow… it’s the last day of 2016. It’s been a tumultuous year to say the least… definitely a hectic one for obituary writers. I know many people have said that 2016 is cursed because so many famous people died. Well I certainly don’t believe that. Yes, many of those celebs passed away too soon, and some might think it’s the most death we’ve had in the year, but no, I don’t think any particular year is ever cursed. Still, I am saddened by the death of those who’ve made an impact on me… the likes of Alan Rickman, Prince, Charmian Carr, Alan Thicke, Carrie Fisher, and George Michael 😦

I guess I’m an optimist as I’d rather not dwell on the negatives and try to see the good side of things. There are things I’m thankful for, some I’ve mentioned here… I don’t know how much longer I’d keep on blogging but as of right now, I’m still thankful for being a part of the film blogging community and the fun & privileges it’s afforded me.

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Speaking of which, it’s as good a time as any to thank my fellow bloggers who’ve commented on my blog for their support…

Jordan, Cindy, Margaret, MarkMichael, Steven, CourtneyKeith, Brittani, Getter, Allie, Nostra, Tom, Chris E., Esther, Eddie, Dan, WendellVinnie, Jay/Sean and Katy.

I usually post my top 10 list of the year later in January, but I did make a top 10 list of favorites from the first half of 2016… out of that list, Love & Friendship and Captain Fantastic will likely be on my final top 10 BEST list. As for worst, well, I’ve been fortunate to avoid a bunch of stinkers this year, so right now I can only think of two abominables that deserve to be on my WORST list… London Has Fallen and Passengers.

Just for fun, I thought I’d do a top 10 random favorites from the past year, like I did for my 2014 Farewell post:

Favorite leading female performance: Amy Adams (Arrival)


Favorite supporting female performance:
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Favorite leading male performance: tied – Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic) & Ralph Fiennes (A Bigger Splash)

Favorite supporting male performance: Mahersala Ali (Moonlight)

Favorite 2016 TV series: Westworld

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Favorite performance by kid actors (under 15): tied – the kids in Stranger Things & Julian Dennison (Hunt for the Wilderpeople)

Favorite film posters: La La Land


Favorite filmmaker discovery:
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Favorite talent(s) discovery: Ruth Negga (Loving) & Dominic Rains (Burn Country, Funeral Day)


Favorite director/writer duo
: Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin for Blood Stripe

Favorite film setting: New Zealand in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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Favorite film/tv soundtrack: Sing Street and Westworld

Favorite cinematic crush: Sam Riley (natch!)

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Can’t wait to see BBC’s SS-GB and Free Fire next year!!


Now, I thought it’d be fun if this year I ask my blog contributors to do a brief recap of some of their favorites. I can’t thank them enough for being a part of my wee blog, so check out what they have to say…

Laura’s recap

I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to write for this blog. It’s been fun having an excuse to write (outside of my mostly-neglected personal blog), I’ve gotten to see movies I might not have chosen to go to otherwise, and it’s provided multiple cheap date nights. It’s also given me a few of my favorite movies for the year, from major blockbusters to indie films from up-and-coming talent.

  • Ouija 2: Origin of Evil. As a lot of my readers know, I love horror, and while I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one at all (because the first one was super boring), I was so pleasantly surprised when it turned out to actually be really good. It was legitimately scary, which hasn’t been the case with a lot of horror movies released over the past few years, and it was well-done overall, from the acting to the cinematography. Its score on Rotten Tomatoes was incredible, especially for a horror movie sequel, and it was well-earned.
  • The Eyes of My Mother. Keeping with the horror theme, this Twin Cities Film Fest submission was excellent. It was stylistic and unnerving and I could not believe that this was writer/director Nicolas Pesce’s first film, especially at the ridiculously young age of twenty-six. After such a strong beginning, I can’t wait to see more in what will hopefully be a long, illustrious career.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Yes, I had issues with this movie. The writing could have been much better, especially from such a normally talented individual. But as a die-hard Harry Potter fan, I was still so happy to hear the first few notes of Hedwig’s Theme played over the WB logo, and getting to see all of these incredible creatures I’d been imagining since childhood so beautifully rendered on the big screen was so satisfying.

As for my favorite discovery, it’s definitely Nicolas Pesce, the writer/director of Eyes of my Mother. I was amazed that this was his debut as a filmmaker and especially blown away by how young he was to have such an incredible first movie. Considering how much I loved Eyes of My Mother, I can only imagine what else he’ll come up with as his (hopefully illustrious) career progresses.

Vince’s recap

Vince shared his top 5 films he saw in 2016:

  • Cleo from 5-7 (1962): I’m still mourning the absence of the Criterion Collection from HULU. This was one of the last I saw from Criterion that made me ask myself, “Why hadn’t I seen this before?” More engaging than the usual French new wave and a lot less pretentious in my opinion. A great intro to the work of Agnes Varda.
  • Arrival (2016): I was very impressed with this low-key gem. As a devout fan of Amy Adams (minus her forgettable Lois Lane roles) this did not disappoint. Already looking forward to Villeneuve’s Bladerunner sequel.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings (2016): I wrote a review of this earlier this year for Flixchatter and it gave me some hope for the state of animation for the coming year. Good story, some creative risk-taking and beautiful design are standards to live up to.

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  • Storm in a Teacup (1937): One of the few classics remaining in HULU, this one stars Vivien Leigh (who is gorgeous as usual) and a young Rex Harrison in an everyman role as an idealistic journalist meddling in small town politics. No Henry Higgins here but this light comedy has some things to offer in film world full of melodrama and skepticism.
  • Sing (2016): I screened this with my two young boys (courtesy of Flixchatter) and even though it is full of the usual song and dance populating most average animated films these days, they managed to do it right this time without the annoying shadow of American Idol or the Voice. Not too heavy but quite entertaining. My boys loved it. (Full review to follow)

Ted’s recap

2016 was kind of a disappointing year for me when it comes to entertainment. I love seeing big summer blockbuster films at the cinemas but for the first time in many years, I’ve skipped quite a few of them this past summer. With the exceptions of Captain America: Civil War, Jason Bourne and Star Trek: Beyond, I didn’t bother with other big summer releases. Thankfully those three big summer films were very entertaining to me. I hope next summer; Hollywood will release quality summer blockbusters instead of just lame sequels. I’m glad I saw a couple of smaller films at the theater that were quite good, Hell or High Water and Don’t Breathe came out of nowhere and were very successful with both critics and audiences.

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While the summer season was forgettable to me, the fall/winter movies were much better. I really enjoyed Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Sully and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I have yet to see my most anticipated movie of the year, Martin Scorsese’s Silence, I hope it won’t be a disappointment like this year has been so far.

Television shows have been quite good the last few years and with the popularity of Netflix original shows, I thought both DareDevil and Luke Cage were some of the best shows on TV this year. Another show on Netflix that I can’t get enough of is House of Cards, season 4 was an improvement because I was very disappointed with how season 3 turned out.

Blog Plans for 2017:

52FilmsByWomenWell, I made a pledge to watch 52 FILMS By Women, part of WomenInFilm.org but I’m about 10 films short, and that includes rewatches of films by women, i.e. Belle, Bride & Prejudice and You’ve Got Mail. So I definitely plan to watch more films written and/or directed by women in the new year and beyond!

I don’t know if I’ll participate in Blind Spot series again this year, but I might take part in Wandering Through The Shelves’ Thursday Movie Picks more often to give me a break from reviewing films. I also want to do more Music Break posts next year.


Well that’s FlixChatter’s year-end recap folks! Here’s to a more joyful, blessed & prosperous NEW YEAR… cinematically and otherwise.

,…

FlixChatter Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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The title of the film may sound like a superhero film but this indie drama is as far away from the ubiquitous genre as it can get. It made me think of The Sound of Music if Captain Von Trapp were to uproot his entire family to the Austrian Alps and homeschooled all his kids instead of hiring Maria.

Set in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Ben Cash has been living off the grid with his six kids. The film opened with a deer hunting scene that’s quite graphic and intense, prompting the woman next to me to leave the theater and never came back. Perhaps she’s an animal lover or something, but I think it’s her loss that she missed out on this film because of it.

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It’s a provocative way to open a film, and an effective one as well as we get to see right away how Ben has raised his kids, Bodevan, Kielyr, Vespyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai, with vigorous physical and mental training. They live their lives without any of the conveniences and daily luxuries most kids in modern society won’t be able to survive even for a day. Though the kids don’t follow common academic curriculum, they’re taught to be critical thinkers. Instead of playing video games or lying around listening to music all day, the Cash kids read books, play music, hunt for food, and actually spend time with each other.

It’s a really fascinating slice of an unorthodox life, anchored by a soulful yet physical role by Viggo Mortensen. There are numerous themes that are explored here. Parenting is a big one, and I think every parents (especially in America) would benefit from watching this. The scene when the Cash family visit their conventional aunt and uncle in the city (played by Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn), it shows a stark contrast of how their respective kids are brought up. The Cash kids are well-versed in the the Bill of Rights and know who Karl Marx is, while their cousins are far more knowledgeable about pop culture. If I were a parent, it certainly would make me ponder just how much (or I should say how little) kids are learning in school!

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Their lives take an unexpected turn with news of the death of Ben’s wife, Leslie. It’s not a spoiler to reveal that because that even it the catalyst to the journey the Cash family had to take. Ben didn’t spare their feelings when he revealed the news, and it’s certainly a poignant moment that’s beautifully portrayed. The Cash family have to leave their idyllic existence in order to attend Leslie’s funeral, and in the course of that journey, Ben is challenged with the idea what it really means to be a parent and brings into question all his philosophies/beliefs he’s taught his kids.

Now, one does not have to subscribe to his worldview to emphasize with Ben. I for one don’t see eye to eye with him on a spiritual level. Instead of Christmas, they celebrate Noam Chomsky Day. He also vehemently opposes Christian funeral traditions, claiming that his wife had become a Buddhist believer and would rather be cremated instead. Now, while one might admire Ben’s parenting style and what his kids accomplished, no doubt they’d run into issues given that they’ve lived such a sheltered life and away from society. The kids are respectful and bright, but lacking in common social graces. “You made us freaks!” one of the kids, Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), screamed at Ben. He’s got a point there and the film shows many examples of that. The scene where the eldest Bodevan (George MacKay) promptly proposes to a girl after kissing her at an RV campground is funny but rather sad as well. The film is peppered with funny and amusing moments, but a lot of the humor isn’t slapstick but laden with irony and poignancy.

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The themes of parenting and coming-of-age blend seamlessly, and in a way it’s a coming-of-age of sort for Ben as well as a father. The main conflict arises between Ben and his father in-law Jack (Frank Langella), who sternly opposes Ben’s way of life and how his grandchildren are raised. It seems at first that Jack is painted as the *villain* of the film that threatens to separate the kids from their father, but fortunately the film isn’t so simplistic. Liberal sensibilities seem to prevail here, but writer/director Matt Ross doesn’t present things in a formulaic way, and there’s a vast thought-provoking themes being explored here. He boldly presents a compelling yet flawed hero, and chose an absolutely perfect actor in Viggo to do the job.

He’s the epitome of intellectual free spirit, a Renaissance man who’s set in his ways. The intensely charismatic Viggo Mortensen bared all for the role, mentally and physically. I’d hope to see his name popping up in the Best Actor race come award season. There’s a rather amusing nude scene, made more hilarious by the reaction of the people who saw him being so nonchalant about it, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. The challenge to normalcy seems to be what the whole movie is about, and it certainly gives you plenty of food for thought.

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The movie works largely because of the talented cast. In addition to MacKay and Hamilton, we’ve got Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell as the talented young actors who play Ben’s children. Each have their moments to shine and you believe them as a close-knit family. The only thing I wish were explored a bit better is the relationship between Ben and Leslie. The only flashback scenes we get are mere glimpses of the two gazing lovingly at each other, which doesn’t reveal anything about Leslie’s mental condition or suicidal tendencies.

It’s been a couple of months since I saw Captain Fantastic, which was my JULY Movie of the Month AND it’s also one of my fave 2016 films so far. It’s a beautifully-shot film with panoramic shots of the Pacific Oceans and the Rocky Mountains region. Certainly a film that subscribe to the old adage that it’s the journey, not the destination that really matters. It’s certainly one of the most eccentric films I’ve seen this year, both amusing and haunting, but definitely indelible.

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Have you seen ‘Captain Fantastic’? Let me know what you think! 

Weekend Roundup: ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ (2016), ’13’ (2010), ‘Toy Story 3’ (2010)

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How was your weekend everyone? It was a glorious day on Saturday so hubby and I went for walks at two different lakes, Lake Nokomis and Lake Minnetonka. Weather is absolutely glorious it’d be a crime to spend time indoors.

I did manage to see a new movie this weekend, The Secret Life of Pets, I should have my review of it up later this week. I also re-watched Toy Story 3 and was blown away by how good and emotionally-compelling it was. It’s definitely much more than just a fun, feel-good kids movie. The Toy Story trilogy still reign supreme as the best animated movies ever, it won’t be a hyperbole to call it Pixar’s masterpiece.


I’m happy to report that I’m finally done with ALL of my dahling Sam Riley‘s filmography!! I watched the thriller ‘13‘ on Thursday night, which is actually a remake of a Georgian film by the same director, Géla Babluani. I’ve mentioned that movie and posted a trailer on this post. I probably won’t review it fully, as I’d rather write about Sam’s other films.

I can see why this film was panned by critics, it kind of wasted the talented cast, though it’s still amusing to see the likes of Michael Shannon, Mickey Rourke, Ray Winstone and Jason Staham in it. Hey it even had the new Tarzan Alexander Skarsgård in it, but most of their roles are pretty small. As the protagonist, Sam held his own against the more experienced cast. His American accent is believable and I totally buy him as a blue collar worker from Ohio! 🙂 The movie was the most intense during the Russian roulette game, and Sam was the heart of the movie as a money-stricken young man who had no idea what he’s got himself into.


Having seen ALL of Sam’s films now, I’m even more dismayed that his career didn’t go as far as it could’ve been. He’s so freakin’ talented with such screen presence and intensity. The movie wouldn’t have been worth watching for me if it weren’t for Sam.

Ok, my obsession with Richard III continues. I’ve finished Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and now reading Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard The Third which came highly recommended from Philippa Langley, the lady who found the King in the car park back in 2012. So this weekend I watched a couple of Tower of London documentaries, which is a fascinating castle that holds soooo many secrets. The more I read about King Richard though, the more I’m convinced that him being depicted as the killer of the Princes in the Tower is a blatant Tudor propaganda.
TowerOfLondonDocs


This week I’ll be going to the Ghostbusters and Captain Fantastic. I’m more curious than excited about the first, but I have been looking forward to the latter since it premiered at Sundance. Can’t go wrong with Viggo Mortensen in a quirky drama.
Ghostbusters–CaptFantastic


So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

12 films debuting at Sundance 2016 I can’t wait to see

Sundance2016

I’ve been dreaming of Sundance all week! I had planned on going initially, I even had the press application ready to go last December but I decided it was cutting it too close to my Christmas trip to the East Coast. But I’ve been closely following Sundance and reading some of the buzz/reviews.

“The Sundance Film Festival is truly a place for discovery,” said festival director John Cooper (per Screendaily) and it’s so great to see a variety of genres AND many female filmmakers represented in the lineup. Seems that Sundance is far more progressive in terms of gender/race diversity than Hollywood. For this purpose, I’m only highlighting feature films, though certainly there are quite a few documentaries at Sundance that caught my eye.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list:

[in alphabetical order – ‘W’ marks films directed by women]

1. Ali & Nino

AliNino

Muslim prince Ali and Georgian aristocrat Nino have grown up in the Russian province of Azerbaijan. Their tragic love story sees the outbreak of the First World War and the world’s struggle for Baku’s oil. Ultimately they must choose to fight for their country’s independence or for each other.

Director: Asif Kapadia

Cast: Adam Bakri, Maria Valverde, Mandy Patinkin, Connie Nielsen, Riccardo Scamarcio, Homayoun Ershadi.

“… an epic love story set against the backdrop of the First World War, expansionist Communist Russia and the independence movement in Azerbaijan.” (per UAE’s The NationalBoy you don’t hear that every day. Nor do you hear a love story between two faiths, which is many parts of the world could be even more problematic than love story between two races. Kapadia is the filmmaker behind two acclaimed docs, Senna and Amy, so I’m curious how he’d fare with his dramatic feature.

2. Birth of a Nation

BirthOfaNation2BirthOfaNation1

Nat Turner, a former slave in America, leads a liberation movement in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina that results in a violent retaliation from whites.

Director and screenwriter: Nate Parker

Cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and Mark Boone Junior

This is perhaps the buzziest film out of Sundance this year. I had read last week about how Nate Parker quit acting for two years and raised $10 mil to get this film made. I’ve only seen him in Beyond the Lights so far and I think he’s a pretty charismatic actor. It’s been a passion project for him for years and it seemed to have paid off big time. Fox Searchlight Pictures has bought the worldwide distribution rights for the film for $17.5 million, apparently the biggest deal in the history of the Sundance Film Festival. You can read this THR article about his journey to get this film made. So far the reviews have been universally positive, at least from what I gather on Twitter. Vulture calls it ‘… a beautiful, reflective film even as it is also a brutal, visceral one.’ The subject matter is as timely as ever and it’s definitely a film I’ll keep an eye on.

3. Captain Fantastic

CaptainFantastic

In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.

Director and screenwriter: Matt Ross

Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Frank Langella, George MacKay, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, Ann Dowd

The premise sounds intriguing, esp. with Viggo Mortensen in the lead. It seems quirky, even bizarre on the outset, but promises a lot of heart. This Huffington Post reviewer describes it as ‘… a spirited film celebrating life and ingenuity’ that sparked his spirit after a long, hectic day at Sundance.

4. Certain Women [W]

CertainWomen

The lives of three woman intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Cast: Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, and Kristen Stewart

I’m not familiar with Reichardt’s work at all but I’m immediately intrigued by the premise of this film and the mostly-female cast. The Guardian says, ‘Like Reichardt’s directorial hand, the performances are understated across the board, but deeply felt.’ I should check out her earlier film Meek’s Cutoff, which also stars Michelle Williams.

5. Complete Unknown

CompleteUnknown

Michael Shannon plays Tom, a married man who, at his birthday celebration, feels sure he knows Alice (Rachel Weisz), and pursues her during a long, adventurous night.

Director: Joshua Marston

Cast: Rachel Weisz, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, and Michael Chernus

This is one of the two Michael Shannon films that caught my eye from Sundance. Interestingly enough both have romantic tones and I haven’t seen Shannon as a romantic hero before. But I LOVE Rachel Weisz and the premise of her playing a mysterious woman definitely intrigues me. Per Screen Daily‘It’s hard to imagine Complete Unknown working as well as it does without Weisz in the lead role. She is equally adept at embodying some kind of ideal vision of a woman—charming, intelligent, and sociable—as she is revealing the vulnerabilities and insecurities that exist underneath her alluring surface.’ Sounds like it’s worth a watch just for miss Weisz!

6. Equity [W]

Equity Equity_2

The first female-driven Wall Street film, follows a senior investment banker who is threatened by a financial scandal and must untangle a web of corruption.

Director: Meera Menon

Cast: Anna Gunn, James Purefoy, Sarah Megan Thomas, and Alysia Reiner

Ok so Working Girl was technically a female-driven Wall Street film, but this one is not about a woman trying to get into the male-driven industry. As Variety puts it, it’s a female spin of The Big Short and Margin Call about a group of women caught up in the world of high finance. The fact that there’s a female director at the helm naturally made me even more intrigued by it. Oh, and having James Purefoy here doesn’t hurt either. Sony Pictures Classics has bought it so it’s likely we’ll see this in cinemas soon.

7. Frank & Lola

FrankLola

Set in Las Vegas and Paris, this love story covers the full circle of emotions: love, obsession, sex, betrayal, revenge and eventually the search for redemption.

Director & Screenwriter: Matthew M. Ross

Cast: Imogen Poots, Michael Shannon, Justin Long, Rosanna Arquette

Check out this short clip:

It’s billed as a romantic thriller and it’s got Shannon in the romantic lead. Color me intrigued. As I mentioned before, I haven’t seen Shannon in a romantic role before, but he’s a terrific and versatile actor so I’m sure he’d acquit himself well. I haven’t seen Rosanna Arquette in anything for a long time, I wonder what role she’ll be playing here.

8. Love & Friendship

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Set in the 1790s, Love and Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon, who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica.

Director: Whit Stillman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel

You already know I have a penchant for Jane Austen. Per Variety, this film is an adaptation of Austen’s earlier work called “Lady Susan” that was published posthumously in 1871. I haven’t seen Kate Beckinsale in ages (I think the last time it was the ghastly Total Recall sequel) so nice to see her in a period drama once again. Here she stars as Lady Susan, described as the most irresistibly devious of Austen protagonists. Yes please! Interesting to see Chloe Sevigny here, I don’t think I’ve seen her in this genre before.

9. Maggie’s Plan [W]

MaggiesPlan

A young woman’s determination to have a child catapults her into a nervy love triangle with a heart-throb academic and his eccentric critical-theorist wife.

Director: Rebecca Miller

Cast: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Travis Fimmel.

I had missed a lot of Greta Gerwig’s films though I realize she’s quite the indie darling. So perhaps this will be my first movie I see her in. But what intrigued me right away was Rebecca Miller directing. She’s the daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and she’s married to acting legend Daniel Day-Lewis, but she’s a multi-talented artist herself being a painter/sculptor/writer/director. This is her fifth film and yet I haven’t seen a single one. [Note to self: watch The Ballad of Jack and Rose which stars Day Lewis)

10. Sophie And The Rising Sun [W]

Sophie_RisingSun

In a small Southern town in the autumn of 1941, Sophie’s lonely life is transformed when an Asian man arrives under mysterious circumstances. Their love affair becomes the lightning rod for long-buried conflicts that erupt in bigotry and violence with the outbreak of World War ll.

Director: Maggie Greenwald

Cast: Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Lorraine Toussaint, Takashi Yamaguchi, Diane Ladd, Joel Murray.

Check out this short clip:

Interesting seeing Nicholson and Martindale in a film together again since August, Osage County. Last time Nicholson was paired with Benedict Cumberbatch whose relationship ended up being a shocking revelation in the plot. Well, this time around it’s her relationship with a Japanese man that causes a stir in her community. The whole ‘forbidden love story’ thing always intrigues me, too. As for Greenwald, I haven’t seen any of her work but I really should check out Songcatcher (2000) starring Janet McTeer and Aidan Quinn.

11. Sing Street

SingStreet

A boy growing up in Dublin during the ’80s escapes his strained family life and tough new school by starting a band to win the heart of a beautiful and mysterious girl.

Director: John Carney

Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Mark McKenna.

Having loved two of Carney’s earlier films, Once and Begin Again, naturally I’m looking forward to what he’s going to do next. Surely it’ll be music-related and who doesn’t love 80s music? I love movies set in Ireland and this one has an Irish cast, too, including Jack Reynor whom I met during his Transformers 4 press tour. The Guardian says Carney ‘…hits the bullseye again with a goodnatured 80s-set comedy’ and many reviewers have called it ‘joyful.’ I can’t wait to see this one!

12. Tallulah [W]

Tallulah

Desperate to be rid of her toddler, a dissatisfied Beverly Hills housewife hires a stranger to babysit and ends up getting much more than she bargained for.

Director and screenwriter: Sian Heder

Cast: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard, Evan Jonigkeit, and Uzo Aduba

My pal Kirsten Gregerson gave me some updates right from from Park City. The reason she was able to attend Sundance in the first place was because her dear friend, Stacey Thunder, played the reporter in Tallulah.  She and Heather Rae, Tallulah‘s producer, have been friend’s for some time, meeting through Kimberly Guerrero who also was in The Jingle Dress with Stacey.

“I was very thankful to be a part of the Tallulah weekend as well as help Stacey with her new show called Indigenous with Stacey Thunder.  I was able to attend the Sundance Native Forum Brunch and take pictures behind the scenes of her interview with Chris Eyre who directed the film Smoke Signals.” – Kirsten

Tallulah‘s written & directed by Sian Heder (Orange is the new Black), who was pregnant during the shoot and is now the mother of two young children. This is her mini review of the film:

A smart and touching comedy about taking the risk of needing someone and being needed.  I have often felt judged as a mother by other moms, probably the hardest though on myself. This film helped me to realize that mothering is not black or white but shades of grey.  The role of Carolyn played by Tammy Blanchard was a difficult one to play and she nailed it.  She is a woman that desperately wants to feel needed but, like many of us, looks to fill that void with alcohol and men.  She has a child that so desperately needs her and wants her but she can’t see that until that child is taken away from her.

The two leads, Allison Janey and Ellen Page, are magic on screen as we have seen before in Juno. Some scenes are dramatic, others are really funny, kind of like life. It was also refreshing to see the woman who plays Crazy Eyes in Orange Is The New Black (Uzo Aduba) as a reporter in this film, who is also a mother.  Although he had limited screen time, Lu’s (Ellen Page) boyfriend, played by Evan Jonigkeit, gave a memorable and truthful performance.  You will definitely be seeing more of him.

In a nutshell, I absolutely loved the film and left the theater feeling good about what kind of mom I have been over the years.  We are all just trying are best and want to feel loved and needed, but in a healthy way.

I can’t wait to see this one. I’ve mentioned in this post that Netflix has bought this film for $5mil and an unnamed theatrical partner will release the film in the latter part of 2016.

For more info on which films have been sold at Sundance so far » The Wrap

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NOTABLE MENTIONS:

Christine
Christine

The story of 1970s TV reporter Christine Chubbuck who committed suicide on live TV.

Director: Antonio Campos

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Michael C. Hall, Maria Dizzia, Tracy Letts, and J. Smith-Cameron

Manchester By the Sea

ManchesterBySea

After his older brother passes away, Lee Chandler is forced to return home to care for his 16-year-old nephew. There he is compelled to deal with a tragic past that separated him from his family and the community where he was born and raised.

Director: Kenneth Lonergan

Cast: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, Kyle Chandler.

The Hollars

TheHollars

Aspiring New York City artist John Hollar returns to his Middle America hometown on the eve of his mother’s brain surgery. Joined by his girlfriend, eight months pregnant with their first child, John is forced to navigate the crazy world he left behind.

Director: John Krasinski

Cast: John Krasinski, Anna Kendrick, Margo Martindale, Richard Jenkins, Sharlto Copley, Charlie Day.


Sources: Variety | Screen Daily | Buzzfeed


Have you been keeping up with Sundance? Which film(s) are YOU looking forward to the most?