FlixChatter Review: Only The Brave (2017)


Review by: Vitali Gueron

Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) and is loosely based on an article in GQ, ‘No Exit’, written by Sean Flynn. The film stars Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Taylor Kitsch, James Badge Dale and features Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly.

What most people know about the Granite Mountain Hotshots is that they are a young crew of specialist wildfire fighters, tasked with job of fighting wildfires head on.

According to GQ:

Hotshots are invariably referred to as elite firefighters, which suggests years of training, high-end equipment, and a mastery of the mechanics of wildfires. But none of that is required. The entry-level qualifications are a few dozen hours of classroom instruction and a decent level of fitness, and the primary tools are chain saws and Pulaskis, a specialty tool combining an ax and an adze. Hotshots also tend to be young…and few of them make a long career out of it.

During a routine assignment of fighting a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona in June 2013, a total of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were lost to the wildfire and it resulted in the greatest loss of firefighters since 9/11. This was known as the Yarnell Hill Fire. The lone survivor from the 20-man crew was 21-year-old Brendan McDonough (Teller). The pace of the movie starts out really slow, as tells the real life story of Eric and Amanda Marsh (Brolin and Connelly), a married couple who struggle through normal relationship ups and downs, living on a ranch outside Prescott, Arizona. Eric “Supe” Marsh is the superintendent of a hotshot crew of firefighters who are training to be certified to fight wildfires for the Prescott Fire Department. His second-in-command is Jesse Steed (Badge Dale) and the young hotshot crew trusts the both of them with their lives.

Josh Brolin and Jennifer Connelly

After sever weeks of intense training, in walks Brendan “Donut” McDonough (Donut is the nickname given to him by the more experienced hotshots, the same way a pledge gets one from his fraternity brothers during pledging). Donut went to the firefighters post in Prescott, where the hotshots were headquartered, with a mission. He knew a couple of guys from an EMT class he’d taken at a community college and he’d overheard them mention that Granite Mountain was hiring. But he was a stoned kid, straight out of serving a three-day sentence for theft and those guys knew him, too. No jobs, they told him. The veteran yet overly cocky hotshot Chris MacKenzie (Kitsch) told him straight up, all the positions had been filed. But Eric Marsh overhead McDonough asking and offered to interview him on the spot.

You see, Marsh saw something in McDonough, something he saw when he looked at himself in the mirror — a former addict who was looking for a second chance. McDonough recently had become a father and had to clean up and take more responsibility. And with that responsibility came sacrifice. Yet little did McDonough know just how much sacrifice being a hotshot was really asking of him.

Miles Teller and Taylor Kitsch

As we get ever closer to the inevitable, harrowing ending in Yarnell, we get to see the hotshots for what they were – husbands, fathers, boyfriends and members of Prescott Arizona where Duane Steinbrink (played by Jeff Bridges) is not only the wildland division chief for the city of Prescott by day, but also a mighty fine singer at night with his country band called the Rusty Pistols (yes, Jeff Bridges sings for a bit in the movie). The entire hotshot crew celebrates that night as they bask in the glory of saving the ancient juniper tree during the Doce Fire.

The standouts of the movie are Josh Brolin and Miles Teller. Both actors show a broad depth of acting superiority and might. Brolin is fierce as Marsh, the hotshot superior — tough and calculated, yet humanly fragile, especially when confronting his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly at her best) with issues related to spending a long time apart. Teller is the rookie hotshot, out to prove himself after being known as junkie for all of his life. He brings a tender, yet sincere face to the hotshots and makes the audience feel like they can relate to him. As Donut is tasked with being the lookout for the hotshots in Yarnell, thus separating him from the other and ultimately sparing his life, Teller draws you in and makes you feel what he is feeling, deep down in your gut.

Miles Teller & Josh Brolin

Overall, Only The Brave is a must see movie, whether you want to honor those who gave up their lives to save others from wildfires, or whether you want to see some of the finest storytelling and acting out this year. I would be surprised if you walk out of that theater and don’t feel like you’ve been sucker punched in the gut from that real life human emotion, precisely the kind the producers and director want you to feel when it’s all said and done.

Have you seen ‘Only The Brave’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: Hell or High Water (2016)



When I first saw the trailer of Hell or High Water a couple of months ago, I thought for sure it’s going to be one of those late summer action films that would be shown at theaters one weekend and disappeared the next. Well as it turns out, it is one of the best reviewed films of the year, maybe the best so far. According to Rottentomatoes.com, out 134 critics who reviewed it, only 2 gave it a negative review. As of this writing, it’s currently sitting at an unbelievable 99% fresh rating on the site.

Set in West Texas, brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) are bank robbers and as the film opens, we see their acts right away. They’re amateurs but desperate for money, especially Toby who wants to keep his family land from being foreclosed on by the evil banks. Texas Ranger Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and his partner Parker (Gil Birmingham) are on the hunt to stop these two brothers from committing any more robberies. These four characters are the center of the picture and it’s the chess match between the brothers and Rangers that’s fun to watch. This film can be described as buddy/western/road/action/thriller, it’s quite a lot to describe a film but that’s best way to explain it to anyone.


For a film that doesn’t have a complex plot, the actors need to carry the picture and the performances by the main leads were pretty great. Jeff Bridges gets my vote for best performance of the year so far; no doubt he’ll get nominated again comes awards season for his performance here. He pretty much reprised his role from True Grit and it’s quite fun to watch. His character is on the verge of retirement and he wants to catch these thieves so he can ride out into the sunset as a hero. His constant insults on his partner Parker is hilarious and we audience know he didn’t mean what he said.

Birmingham also stood out as the partner who has to endured Hamilton’s insults but he give as much insults back to Hamilton as well. Watching these two rangers bickers gave the picture more comedic tone than you’d expect in a film like this. Pine, who probably realized he can’t rely on the Star Trek pictures to keep him relevant in Hollywood, wisely accepts this role in a smaller film. He’s very good here as a desperate man who wants his kids to have a better life than his. He also worries about his reckless brother who only decided to rob the banks just for fun. I was never a fan of Foster but he’s effective here as the reckless brother who enjoys violence and knows that his life is over once they’re done with the robberies.


The script by actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is pretty great. Even though it’s a simple story, he was able inject some dark humor, great dialogs and some surprises here and there. I do wish he’d toned down some of the hate directed at the evil banks; yeah we get it, many people suffered because of these greedy bankers. Some of the dialogs tend to get a bit too preachy for my liking, especially when Toby and Hamilton had their confrontation.

Director David Mackenzie also did a good job of setting moving the film along as a brisk pace. It’s obvious that he took inspirations from films of Sam Peckinpah and The Coen Brothers. Some even compare this film to No Country For Old Men. While I agree there are similarities, I still think the Coen Brothers’ picture is superior to this.

Even though it sounds like I love this film, I only liked it. I thought Mackenzie did a good job of bringing a great script to the big screen, I think had it been directed by a more polished directors like David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron, this would’ve been a near perfect film. I didn’t see any originality from Mackenzie so I can’t call a great film, just a very good one. But it does have a great script and fine performances.



So have you seen Hell or High Water? Well, what did you think?

Jeff Bridges Double Feature – Winter Kills (1979) & Cutter’s Way (1981)


Greetings all!

Coming off a hectic few weeks of family reunions and furniture moving. I’ve let my mind wander into dark corners and crevices of film history and lore. Finding. Picking apart and discarding some of the contemporary media’s ideas of legacies and generational handing down of the family’s thespian trade.

Martin Sheen (nee Ramon Estevez) and his sons may be contenders for a later edition. After Jon Voight and his daughter, Angelina Jolie. Though, for a premiere, you want to bring out they heaviest hitters first. To that end, allow me to introduce one the progeny of one of the last great character actors of the Hollywood firmament.

Jeff Bridges: Coming Off the Blocks.

I’ll be picking up from when the younger Mr. Bridges first caught the nation’s and world’s eye in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show and Michael Cimino’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. And focus on two films where his talents are placed front and center.

Winter Kills (1979)

WinterKillsPosterIn a better than average and surprisingly satiric adaptation of the best selling novel by Richard Condon. Young Mr. Bridges plays the spoiled, pampered and influential younger brother of assassinated President Timothy Keegan (Read: JFK). Who happens across a dying man who admits to being the gunman nineteen years earlier.

Which opens up a skein of slowly unraveling loose ends as young Nick stumbles about and starts following leads from Philadelphia. To New York and a meeting with his corporate magnate father, Pa Keegan (A slightly more slimy take on patriarch Mulwray, from Chinatown). And his unintentionally funny, fidgeting, near stuttering, paranoid neurotic head of security, John Ceruti, (Anthony Perkins). Plus the gift of a blackjack with sentimental value from Pa. Should Nick need protection slightly more legal than an unlicensed pistol.

Moving westward with his girlfriend, Yvetter Malone, (The beguiling Belinda Bauer) through major cities to L.A. Avoiding death’s touch by mere seconds as those with information fall mysteriously by the wayside. Punching more and more holes in the recently published Congressional Investigation. Revealing clandestine connections to organized crime through Ralph Meeker’s “Gameboy” Baker and Eli Wallach’s Joe Diamond.

Top Pics: Anthony Perkins and Belinda Bauer

Things become a bit murky with the introduction of Richard Boone’s protective hand holder, Keifitz and an oddly miscast, long haired and bearded Sterling Hayden’s Sherman tank driving, World War II re-enactor Z.K. Dawson. Then clear up as the prodigal son returns to Pa’s corporate headquarters and a final confrontation.

Now. What Makes This Movie Good?

Tall, lean, initially naive Jeff Bridges being the impetus of a near last minute shake down cruise to find and erase any lingering flaw or problems that surround and are part and parcel of the highest of visibility hits. Unearthing those who were not directly involved, but more of the underlings and middle men who shine light upon where to travel next.

As Mr. Bridges shares time with a plethora of cinematic veterans. Each adding their own takes and two cents to the changing and developing plot. Where eventually all roads lead back home to Pa Keenan and his near maniacal desire for power. If not his own, then his chosen scion, Timothy.

.What Makes This Film Great?

A cross country tale that begins in snowy, cold and damp Philadelphia and the quietest murder of a potential witness on film. And travels quickly north and west. With mood setting on location cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond. When not presenting ultra modern, computer bank laden, world wide commerce, “Big Board” futuristic surroundings of the dimly lit security offices Ceruti calls home. Or presenting parts of the deserts outside White Sands that Sterling Hayden’s Dawson calls home in the most creatively inhospitable ways.

Interspersing crowded city streets, elegantly opulent restaurants. High fashion that occasionally rubs elbows with the seamier criminal element. Amidst missing gunshots and badly timed explosions.


And through it all, young Mr. Bridges maintains an even strain through changing and sometimes tragic events. While never losing his focus and discovering more. A role that helped cement my opinion early on Mr. Bridges’ supremely seamless comfort and ease in front of a camera and giving memorable life to any role.

Which guides us to the less known follow on (Though some may disagree) film of this End of Summer Double Feature. One that had no real ad or preview campaign to speak of. Had its title changed from the original Newton Thornburg novel, Cutter and Bone by the suits at United Artists. After holding their nose at the thought of marketing the film. Then gladly disavowed it the next day.

A film whose premise would be right at home under the deft touch of Bud Boetticher twenty years earlier. Given a few modern twists. With an arrogant real estate mogul replacing the evil cattle baron. The way he treats the businesses and people of his small town outside Santa Barbara. Add an odd murder. And follow how a few of the local town folk go about their way of seeking justice.

Cutter’s Way (1981)


One of the first and most notable modern Noirs. Splitting its time between Yacht and Country clubs. Quiet suburbs and what goes on between the rows of vineyards, just starting out Mom and Pop shops, expensive stables, horse farms and rising. Sprawling, near completed suburbs. In other words, prime, ominous shadow country.

That begins on the night of a late night torrential summer downpour. And segues nicely under the roof of a awkwardly stalled convertible. Where past yacht club party boy, Richard Bone (Jeff Bridges) glimpses what looks like someone taking something large out of a ominously dark limo and tossed into a Dumpster.
Bone is at first a suspect. Spends the night in jail and doesn’t think much of it until he relays the tale to his friend, Alex Cutter. A badly wounded and disfigured Vietnam veteran, who’s gotten on the wrong side of a frag during an ambush. John Heard doesn’t even bother setting limits on a righteously angry man with a hard on for everyone and sees conspiracy everywhere.
And Cutter and Bone have a resplendent back yard to go sleuthing after evenings spent drinking with Cutter’s lithe, hot and far too smart for her own good, Lisa Eichorn’s ‘Mo’. Leaving plenty of room for Bone to be charmingly low key and discreet. Where Cutter is used to being ignored, leaned on, pushed around or slugged at the drop of a pertinent question. Becoming the beleaguered Battle Axe to Bone’s rapier as layers of mystery are tugged on and fall away as an onion.
Leads start to slowly reveal themselves and fall into place. As the parcel that was dumped
may well have been a mistress of evil land developer, J.J. Cord (Stephen Elliot). Who Bone believes he recognizes during a weekend fiesta. Pressure increases as time begins to run out as an opening for a confrontation appears with the post fiesta party on Cord’s estate. Invitation only, but that doesn’t slow down Cutter or Bone…

Now. What Makes This Film Good?


Enjoying director Ivan Passer‘s visual style. Alternating between brightly sun lit, rough and tumble, hard scrabble acreage that is now the land of milk and honey. Expensively opulent and slipped yachts and the most frightening and depressing “dark and stormy nights”. An excellent backdrop to a mystery that moves at its own sedate pace as mood and atmosphere vie for equal footing with just how different life is for the filthy rich.
Cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth is top notch. Revealing the cleverness first hinted at in his earlier Rolling Thunder, Altered States and would be expanded upon with Blade Runner. Original soundtrack by Jack Nitzche is sparse, but heightens mood expertly when the need requires.

What Makes This Film Great?


The teaming up of Mr. Bridges’, laid back, content and lackadaisical Richard Bone. Who has never had to take a hard decision in his life. With perpetually angry, eye-patched and one-armed John Heard‘s Alex Cutter. To whom most of society is an obstacle meant to be challenged, scaled and conquered. With no real friends outside of Bone and his wife, ‘Mo’.
And who may not be averse to the idea of Mo and Bone getting closer together. Though Cutter is the more explosive and volatile, Cutter often acts a moral conscience to keep his friend in check. Lest it draw too much attention from Cord and his minions. At first. Though Cutter becomes the driving force during and just after the Summer Festival.

Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews

Thoughts on Jeff Bridges and/or either one of his earlier films? Let it be known in the comments.

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: R.I.P.D and interview w/ extra Tim Jacobs


Summer is a great time for action comedies! When I first saw this trailer earlier this year, I thought this is a crazy mash-up of Men In Black (but with dead people) meets Ghostbusters… with The Dude and Green Lantern, no less.

After Detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is killed by accident, he is recruited into the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) and partnered with veteran officer Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges). The R.I.P.D. is an organization of dead police officers tasked with protecting the living from arrogant, malevolent, bloodthirsty evil spirits who refuse to move into the afterlife

Apparently the story is based on a comic book by Peter M. Lenkov. The movie’s directed by Robert Schwentke who apparently passed on directing the sequel of another action comedy RED, and also stars Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker. Interestingly, both Reynolds and Parker have two movies coming up in the same weekend, Reynolds lends his voice in the animated feature Turbo and Parker is also in RED 2 (review coming soon).

Check out the latest trailer…

… and featurette w/ the cast:

Today we’ve got a special guest on this post…


Tim Jacobs, a stage actor who worked as extra on the film – check out his profile on IMDb. Thanks to my friend Ashley (aka Tim’s girlfriend) for introducing us. Tim played one of the evil souls (deados) share some of his experience on the set. Check out our interview below:

1. Tell us what your role is in R.I.P.D and how you ended up getting involved with this project

R.I.P.D. is about of evil souls (deados) that escaped judgement and are hiding out on earth. The R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department) is in charge of finding and arresting these offending souls. In the movie, I was one of the Deados that worked closely with Hayes (Kevin Bacon) to bring about the end of the world as we know it.

 The casting process for this movie was unlike any audition I’d done before. Boston Casting, an incredible casting agency in (you guessed it) Boston contacted me about the audition. They were looking for a very specific type of person. They had to be over 6 feet tall and physically fit. The auditions themselves were incredible! You know you’re going to have fun when they don’t give you specifics, but tell you to wear “clothes you can move in.” The actual audition consisted of push-ups, pull-ups, jumping rope, box jumps, and various other physical activities including showing off some stage combat skills. Things went well and they picked a small group of us that day.

2. Did you get to work with any of the main cast?

The part of the story that I’m a part of is kind of the climax of the movie. It takes place on the roof of a building that was meticulously replicated in a giant warehouse. The set was entirely surrounded by green screen. It felt like we were in a giant green circus tent. The actual set was the exact size of the building it was modeled after, and with all the people on it, you could find yourself next to any number of cast members.


Reynolds, Bacon and Bridges on set

We worked mostly with the main cast (although the stand ins were used from time to time) but we were instructed to maintain professionalism and not get all googly eyed when they walked by. They were all very nice. Jeff Bridges seemed to be one of the nicest guys around, Ryan Reynolds was very focused on the work, and Kevin Bacon was hilarious! We were with them for a good portion of our shoot and we did chat in between takes or sitting outside.

3. What’s a day on the set like? I learned that you have to wear a certain costume to play one of the dead monsters (Deado)?

Tim in full costume

I maintain relationships with several of them on Facebook even now. Once the call comes though, we would have to quickly move into position as they set up the shot. When you are actually on set, everything moves very quickly and you always have to be aware of the people, cameras, and your Assistant Director.

Everyone was wicked nice though. The director (Robert Schwentke) was very good at letting the actors know what he wanted and how to better achieve it. The entire crew would help you out and answer any questions you had about anything. It was a wonderful work environment because everyone seemed to be on the same page.

The costume I wore was not much more than somewhat formal street clothes. But on certain CGI shots, we got to wear the “grey suits” (see below). These icons of the fashion world were made of a nice stretchy material and had the one size fits most feel to them. Luckily we didn’t have to wear these very often.


4. I understand you’ve done a lot of stage work in various Shakespearean plays? Tell us what project you’re working on right now.

Tim in a stage adaptation of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

The Director (Dan Beaulieu) has taken this show and spun it around much like a DJ remixes a song. In fact, we refer to the show as #Ahranjay (R+J) the remix. The show is a lot more intense and interesting than most of the productions of Romeo and Juliet that I have seen. It features Dubstep and live music as the heartbeat and driving force of the action. Among other things, we will be live tweeting during the shows, and finding all sorts of fun ways to interact with the audience. You can find more information on the show at prescottpark.org or find Seven Stages Shakespeare Company on Facebook. If you are in the area, it is definitely worth the $5 donation. Also, it is outdoors so there’s that.

5. What’s next for you? More stage work or are you looking to venture out into TV or films?

There is nothing like live theatre. There are no second takes when you are onstage in front of hundreds of people. What you do is what you get. The adrenaline (butterflies) I get during a live show can’t be compared with being on a movie set. But movies have their own fun. You don’t get the instant feedback like in theater, but instead there is a long wait to see your art. It is truly a lot of fun, even as an extra, to be part of a movie. I will keep auditioning for all sorts of performing arts, and whoever wants to work with me ultimately decides the steerage of my course.

Thanks again Tim for the interview! Check out Tim on Facebook.

Hope you enjoy the interview. Thoughts on this post, well let’s hear it!

TCFF Coverage: Preview Night of A Place At The Table

It’s becoming a tradition of sort that TCFF kicks off the film fest with a documentary about an important subject. Our first year we have the education-themed Waiting for Superman, the second year we screened Bully which tackles the topic of peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America. This year is no different, A Place At the Table, which takes a look at America’s hunger crisis. It debuted at Sundance under the name Finding North, and Magnolia Pictures has recently acquired the US rights to distribute the powerful documentary from Participant Media, directed by Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush.

TCFF is more than just about films. Each year, executive director Jatin Setia looks for a relevant topic for the film fest to focus on, and he was adamant to showcase A Place At The Table when he saw it at Sundance. Thanks to his and fellow organizers’ persistence, we not only have the film premiere here, but also present an Education Panel discussing this ever-so-important topic. Moderated by MPR reporter Julie Siple, the panelists last evening includes Lori Kratchmer, executive director of the Emergency Food Shelf; Jackie Olafson, executive director of St. Louis Park Emergency Program; Rob Zeaski, CEO of Second Harvest Heartland; and last but definitely not least, Lori Silverbush, co-director of A Place at the Table.

To say it was an eye-opening discussion is putting it mildly. It’s interesting how when people hear the word ‘hunger’ they immediately think of malnourished kids with flies hovering around them in Africa. But the fact of the matter is, hunger strikes even here in America. The documentary shows that one in four children here in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and the panelists expand a little bit what that means and what people might not know is contributing to that very problem.

“Fifty million Americans – that’s not a fringe, that’s not the screw-ups, that’s not the people you probably have in your head as the hungry people – 50 million Americans have to wonder, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, how they’re going to get food on the table for their families. And that’s energy they’re not devoting to their work, to parenting, to their communities. It’s a great drain.”  – Lori Silverbush (quote from MPR article by Julie Siple)

L to R: Julie Siple, Lori Silverbush, Jackie Olafson, Lori Kratchmer, Doug Peterson and Rob Zeaske

I’m very impressed with director Lori Silverbush, she’s very knowledgeable about her subject matter, and she’s got such strong convictions about what she thinks contributed to the problem in the first place and she’s not afraid to let it be known. It really shows in the film as well, it’s a well-crafted documentary that follows various families across America who are dealing with hunger, and also includes interviews from leading hunger experts such as Stuffed and Starved author Raj Patel, Sweet Charity? author Janet Poppendieck, actor Jeff Bridges, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio, as well as Congressman James McGovern who’ve taken a leadership role in the fight against hunger at home and abroad.

Silverbush shared that the problem of hunger carries such a great stigma, she saw as she made the film that people all often too ashamed to even go to the food shelter, and some families can’t even bear the thought of getting food stamps.

“One of our biggest surprises in making the film is that hardworking people, people who are playing by all the rules, and absolutely fulfilling their end of the social contract as most people would describe it, are still not able to get by,”

I will post the video of the panel as it becomes available, but I really urge you to see this documentary when it opens in your cities. This is easily one of the best documentaries I’ve seen, right up there with one of my favorite, The Cove in terms of entertainment + insight level. Even though it covers a bleak topic, it’s presented in such a way that it’s not at all tedious. Right from the opening sequence with gorgeous aerial shots, the cinematography is beautiful. The transitions from one family and another, alternating it with various interviews, are done seamlessly that it doesn’t feel jarring or jumpy.

Review from TCFF blogger Emery Thoresen:

Between the Education Panel before and the Director Q & A after the screening, the message was communicated; we need to change how our country deals with food – especially in the school systems. The word “politics” was repeated over and over, and if that is where the blame lies, it is our job to take the initiative and do our part; contact our representatives and vote in the right direction in this upcoming election.

The cause is noble, the issues are presented clearly, but there weren’t solid solutions given that would have sure results. The director did speak about what we should do in terms of politics, but she went on to discuss the issues with food charities. The major conglomerates that back many of the well known food organizations distribute their own food, which generally consist of empty calories. Its a self perpetuating situation; people are malnourished, they seek help, and the help that they receive provides in the most minimal way.

Aside from the shocking statistics and real life testimony, the most memorable part of the night was one of the directors, Lori Silverbush. Her partner in crime (Kristi Jacobson) was not present for the screening, but I can only imagine what the two women would be like in the same room. Lori was extremely eloquent and nothing that came out of her mouth was fluff. During the Education Panel and Questioning after the screening she answered all the questions without being redundant or spoiling the ending.

Documentary films are not my forte, but what I saw was worth it. Pretty scenery, good testimonies (Jeff Bridges is far from being the focal point), and clear presentation.

There are more great films playing at TCFF. Get your tickets now!

TCFF organizers Jatin Setia, Naomi Dahlgren and Bill Cooper with Lori Silverbush

Thank you Lori Silverbush for presenting such a well-crafted documentary that covers such a crucial topic, and TCFF’s Jatin Setia & co. for bringing this film to the premiere!!

Spotlight on five great documentaries – and they’re all playing at TCFF!

Woo hoo!!! Today is the day. 9 Days. 60 Films. 25 Events. From today all the way to next Saturday the 20th, this is the place to be for film lovers in the Upper Midwest!

Have you gotten your tickets yet? They are selling fast, in fact when I went to the SHOWPLACE ICON THEATRE in St. Louis Park, the seats are really picked over so don’t delay. You can buy them online but you still have to reserve your seats at the ticket booth.

I’ve blogged about some of the films I’m super excited about, but I wanted to talk about the documentaries specifically, as two years in a row TCFF has kicked off the film fest with a documentary, last year with the education-themed Waiting For Superman. Before I get to the list, check out the TCFF documentary promo, hosted by Minnesota-based filmmaker Joanna Kohler:

A Place At the Table – Friday, Oct 12 6pm

A Place At The Table is an important documentary every Americans should see. As the woman in the trailer says, hunger doesn’t just happen in Africa, but right in our neighborhood. It’s heartbreaking to hear that one in four children here in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and this happens despite our country having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all its people.

The documentary features Jeff Bridges, who apparently is closely-connected to this subject matter as he’s the founder of the End Hunger Network. It also features celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, one of the judges on Bravo’s Top Chef who also happens to be co-director Lori Silverbush’s husband. Silverbush herself will be at the educational panel before the event.

Proceeds from this event will also benefit the Second Harvest Heartland, Food Emergency Shelf, and STEP (St. Louis Park Emergency Program).

American Autumn: An Occudoc – Thursday, Oct 18 2:45pm

It’s been over a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, and this provocative documentary chronicles the early days of this Occupy movement and how it’s gaining momentum.

The review from the NY Times says that “… [director] Dennis Trainor Jr. offers a concise review of the protests that first encamped in Zuccotti Park then swept across the nation and around the world.” Everyone sure has an opinion about the economic inequality problem in America, and this film offers an array of facts and figures on such subjects.

Narrated by Trainor, the documentary features speeches and interviews from filmmaker Michael Moore, Dr. Cornel West (Princeton University), comic/author/activist Lee Camp, journalists Nathan Schneider (Harper’s, The Nation) and Naomi Klein (The Nation) and more.

After I Pick the Fruit – Saturday, October 20 12:45pm

Another hot topic you’ve likely been hearing all over the news is immigration. Even though I’m an immigrant myself, this film is likely to resonate with me. Nancy Ghertner directs a film that follows the lives of five immigrant farm worker women over a ten-year period as they labor in the apple orchards and fields of rural western New York, migrate seasonally to Florida, raise their families, and try to hide from the Bush-era immigration raids that were conducted in response to September 11, 2001.

Filmed across the United States and Mexico, this intimate, bittersweet, feature-length film illuminates a community that is nearly invisible to most Americans, and will change the way you look at our national immigration problem.

Bay of All Saints – Saturday, Oct 20 10:45 am

The winner of Audience Award for Documentary at SXSW 2012, director Annie Eastman explored the lives of impoverished families living in palafitas, shacks built on stilts over the ocean bay in Bahia, Brazil. In an SXSW interview posted by Indiewire, Eastman shared that in college, she discovered Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art from the slave culture of Brazil, which somehow led her to make this film. She revealed that the story spans 7 years, 12 trips to Brazil and 20 weeks of editing.

Bay of All Saints is a lyrical portrait of three single-mothers living in the water slums during this crisis. Their individual stories of poverty unfold through visits from Norato, their big-hearted refrigerator repairman, born and raised in the palafitas. As these women rise to fight for their future, they begin to see the bay in a whole new light.

Call Me Kuchu –  Saturday, October 13 10:25 pm

Kato with the ‘Call Me Kuchu’ filmmakers

The term “Kuchu” is the word LGBT Ugandans use to refer to themselves, though some regards it as derogatory. US-based filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worral explores the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda, as the government is working on a bill that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life imprisonment, even death. It would even go as far as persecute those who fail to report known homosexuals to authorities.

The film features David Kato, a Ugandan teacher known as the country’s first openly gay man who fought against the homophobic laws, as well interviews with as other members of the LGBT community. It’s heartbreaking what happened to Kato, whose life came to a tragic end in January 2011 before the film even premiered. This is religious extremes at its worst… no matter what one’s view is about homosexuality, there is absolutely no justification for what the government is doing to their own people.

Call Me Kuchu has won several awards at various Film Festivals, including the Best International Feature Award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

Thoughts on any of these docs? Which one(s) caught your interest?

TCFF Lineup is here! Check out what’s showing Oct 12-20

Wahoo!! After months of planning, negotiating, previewing, etc. the TCFF board and staff have finally revealed the full lineup of its third film fest! As did the previous two years, TCFF have become the regional premiere of a lot of this season’s most-anticipated films. Steve Snyder, TIME magazine’s assistant managing editor and TCFF’s scheduler, said it best in his tweet about the event:

In less than a month away, the Showplace Icon Theatre in St. Louis Park (definitely my favorite theater in time with its awesome seat-reservation feature) will be the place to be for movie lovers! So before I get to the movies, be sure to get your tickets beginning Wednesday (tickets are $10 for individual passes and $120 for multi-film and party passes).

Here are a sampling of the notable movies, as Minneapolis StarTribune critic Colin Covert have mentioned in today’s article:

Oct 14 – Dustin Hoffman‘s directorial debut Quartet, a character study of retired opera singers starring Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins. This one has a good potential to be noticed by the Academy, after all it’s by the Weinsteins and it doesn’t hurt that it’s written by Ronald Harwood (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Being Julia and The Pianist).

This just looks so delightful!! Harry Potter fans out there perhaps notice right away the reunion of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, ahah! I always like lighthearted comedies starring senior seasoned actors and this certainly look like something I’d enjoy.

Oct 16The Sessions, an affecting comedy-drama inspired by the true story of a paralyzed polio survivor and the sexual surrogate who helped him lose his virginity in his late thirties. It stars Alexandria, Minn. native John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.

I have to admit the subject matter is a delicate one as it deals with disability AND sexuality, but I’ve got to admit the trailer looks quite heartwarming and sweet. Apparently the Australian director Ben Lewin, who himself lost the use of his legs to polio, seems to have direct this one with great humor and sensitivity.

Oct 18 Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro.

This is so exciting!! Just the other day I read that it won the coveted Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. That’s huge considering many previous Audience Award winners have gone on to win Oscar’s Best Picture, i.e. Chariots of Fire, American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, and The King’s Speech [check out this THR article how other previous TIFF’s audience choice have fared at the Oscar]. Apparently the runner-up was Ben Affleck’s ARGO, which has scored early raves at several film festivals.

Lawrence is the main draw for me here, and interestingly enough, I was also impressed by her in Like Crazy which won Best Feature at TCFF last year. I also like seeing Julia Stiles among the cast, she also stars in It’s a Disaster with America Ferrara, premiering Oct. 13.


Oct 19 Not Fade Away, a rock ‘n’ roll coming of age tale set in 1964 New Jersey, the feature directing debut from David Chase, creator of HBO’s The Sopranos.

Opening & Closing Films

Oct 12 – As I’ve mentioned here, the program will open with the hunger documentary A Place at the Table featuring Jeff Bridges – A documentary that investigates incidents of hunger experienced by millions of Americans, it takes on the food issue from a new angle, shining a light on the 30% of American families—more than 49 million people—that don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Oct 20 – The festival will conclude with the comedy Lumpy, which was filmed in various Minnesota locations, starring Justin Long and Jess Weixler. The premise definitely has the recipe for an oddball comedy: The best man at Scott (Long) and Kristin’s (Weixler) Arizona destination wedding, Lumpy (Tyler Labine) is the life of the party, until a long, indulgent night leads to his untimely death. Forced to cancel their honeymoon and fly back to Minneapolis to arrange for his funeral, Scott and Kristin meet Ramsey (Timlin) and learn that Lumpy isn’t quite who they thought he was.


I’ll be blogging more about other movies that’ll be playing at TCFF, but below is the full lineup!


October 12    

8:30PM: A Place at the Table, directed by Kristi Jacobson & Lori Silverbush, 86m

October 13

10:30AM: Call Me Kuchu, directed by Katherine Fairfax Wright & Malika Zouhali-Worrall, 87m

1:00PM: The Sapphires, directed by Wayne Blair, 99m

3:00PM: The Iran Job, directed by Till Schauder, 93m

5:00PM: The Eyes of Thailand, directed by Tim Vandersteeg, 65m

7:00PM: It’s a Disaster, directed by Todd Berger, 88m

9:00PM: Bro’, directed by Nick Parada, 89m

October 14

11:00AM: Crazy & Thief, directed by Cory McAbee, 52m

12:15PM: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg, 115m

2:45PM: We Are Wisconsin, directed by Annie Eastman, 105m

5:15PM: Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman, 97m

7:15PM: Stag, directed by Brett Heard, 83m

9:15PM: Dead Man’s Burden, directed by Jared Moshe, 93m

October 15  

7:00PM: Finding Home, directed by Chars Bonin, 90m

9:00PM: The “Lighter” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors 100m

October 16

6:00PM: Best of MN: Festival Winners!, Various MN Directors, 60m

6:30PM: The Sessions, directed by Ben Lewin, 95m

8:30PM: The Rhymesayers European Tour, directed by Andrew Melby, 105m

October 17  

6:45PM: Dust Up, directed by Ward Roberts, 90m

7:00PM: Nobody Walks, directed by Ry Russo-Young, 83m

9:00PM: Opposite Blood, directed by Billy Xiong, 120m

October 18

2:45PM: American Autumn: An Occudoc, directed by Dennis Trainor Jr., 76m

4:45PM: Field Work: A Family Farm, directed by John Helde, 97m

6:30PM: Silver Linings Playbook, directed by David O. Russell, 117m

6:45PM: Pincus, directed by David Fenster, 79m

8:45PM: Carlos Spills the Beans, directed by Brian McGuire, 90m

9:00PM: The “Darker” Side (MN Shorts), Various MN Directors, 110m

October 19  

2:15PM: Reportero, directed by Bernardo Ruiz, 71m

4:00PM: A Band Called Death, directed by Jeff Howlett & Mark Covino, 98m

6:00PM: Things I Don’t Understand, directed by David Spaltro, 111m

6:30PM: Not Fade Away, directed by David Chase, 117 min

8:30PM: A Late Quartet, directed by Yaron Zilberman, 105m

9:00PM: Problem Solving the Republic, directed by Elliot Diviney, 95m

October 20

11:00AM: Bay of All Saints, directed by Annie Eastman, 75m

11:30AM: Detropia, directed by Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady, 90m

12:45PM: After I Pick the Fruit, directed by Nancy Ghertnet & Cathleen Ashworth, 93m

1:45PM: Lies, Lust, Betrayal – and Cold-Blooded Murder (Indie Shorts), Various Directors, 81m

2:45PM: Take Care, directed by Scott Tanner Jones, 86m

3:45PM: Ready to Fly, directed by William Kerig, 96m

5:30PM: Dead Dad, directed by Ken J. Adachi, 81m

6:00PM: The Story of Luke, directed by Alonso Mayo, 95m

8:00PM: Lumpy, directed by Ted Koland, 91m

Well, what do you think of this year’s lineup? Which movie(s) here are you most excited about?