APRIL Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

AprilRecap

Spring is in the air!! It’s still relatively cool this weekend and the sun was being bashful yesterday so we spent some time at Minneapolis Museum of Art on Saturday during its Art in Bloom exhibition. It’s so lovely to see cherry blossom tree bloomin’ at the park across the street… it was a perfect Spring day!

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So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(click on image to read my reviews on those marked w/ an asterisk)

Born to Be Blue
Born to Be Blue
MeetThePatels
Meet the Patels*
The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book*
A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire*
Look Who's Back
Look Who’s Back
Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship
The Lobster
The Lobster
Purple Rain
Purple Rain

Films watched at MSPIFF

Bollywood Hollywood
Bollywood Hollywood
My Internship in Canada
My Internship in Canada*
MrPig
Mr. Pig*
Beeba Boys
Beeba Boys*
Dragonfly
Dragonfly*
A Copy Of My Mind
A Copy Of My Mind*
The Fencer
The Fencer*
L'Attesa
L’Attesa*
Sing Street
Sing Street


I ended up seeing only nine films at MSPIFF on the big screen. Alas, I didn’t have time to watch any of the online screeners, but I hope to watch them later this month. If I had to pick three out of the ones I’ve seen at MSPIFF, it’d be The Fencer, Beeba Boys and Sing Street. So in total I watched 17 new-to-me movies which is quite a lot by my standards! I’ve reviewed pretty much ALL of the MSPIFF films except for Sing Street which I will do so next week!

Rewatches

Of course I’ll always make time for Sam Riley, so I rewatched the WWII drama Suite Francaise with my girlfriends on movie night on the first week of April, and Control which is still as cool and heartbreaking as the first time I saw it. There’s always time for period dramas too, of course, so I did manage to fit in the BBC miniseries of Sense & Sensibility after I saw the delightful Love & Friendship that’s based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel. I also watched The Mummy, we weren’t planning on it but saw it came across the screen as we’re browsing Netflix and thought, what the heck. It was still pretty entertaining, though the whole time I was thinking about Brendan Fraser’s dismal career trajectory. So apparently the reboot starring Tom Cruise is set for June 2017!

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MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

I’ve watched quite a few music-related films lately, be that biopics or fiction, and I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit. It was tough to pick just one favorite this month given how many great indie films I’ve seen this past month. But I picked two that no doubt have awesome 80s-themed soundtracks as well as being immensely entertaining. So it’s three for three for John Carney, as I’ve enjoyed all three of his feature films so far (the first two being Once and Begin Again). Nice to see Carney went back to his Irish roots with Sing Street.

As for Purple Rain, it was a bittersweet experience watching it. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before yesterday, but I certainly ended April movie watching with a bang. The live performances were really the reason to see this, but Prince were decent in the dramatic scenes too, plus it’s a treat to see Minneapolis (esp First Avenue club) being featured prominently. Of course I teared up during the Purple Rain scene. Prince was absolutely phenomenal as one would expect, but that song was also very emotional in the context of the film (in which his character dedicated to his dad) and also emotional given the music icon’s no longer with us.

MoviesOftheMonth


Well that’s my recap of April. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?

MSPIFF review: L’Attesa (The Wait) starring Juliette Binoche

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It seems tradition that during every film festival in town that I have at least one Juliette Binoche movie on my schedule. Well, she’s still the main reason to see this one.

The film centers on two women who’s somehow thrown together just before Easter, set in a picturesque Sicilian town. The actors speak in both Italian and French which is just incredible as sometimes I can’t even tell which language they’re speaking. The film opens with a close-up of a statue of Christ, and later it’s revealed we’re at a church during a funeral. We’re not told who the deceased person is, but it’s pretty much hinted throughout who it is. We meet Anna (Binoche) in mourning, just as a young girl Jeanne (Lou de Laâge) arrives at the airport to spend time with her and her son Guiseppe.

The title of the film refers to the time the two of them waits for the arrival of Guiseppe for Easter. It wouldn’t really be a spoiler to say that Guiseppe isn’t coming because it’s pretty obvious that Anna is struggling to mention to Jeanne what has happened to her boyfriend. There are some heart-wrenching moments between the two, especially when Anna makes up a lie about why Guiseppe isn’t coming home.The Catholic references in Piero Messina‘s feature film debut is apparent. It might’ve been partly inspired by Michelangelo’s Pietà sculpture where Mary cradled his dead son Jesus’ lifeless body. It’s heart-wrenching to see a mother mourning the loss of his son, something Anna still can’t quite come to grips with. If somehow she could still keeps his son alive even if it’s just in his girlfriend’s mind, perhaps he’s not really truly gone.

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The film itself requires a lot of patience as it’s deliberately s-l-o-w and reflective. At times it feels overly indulgent and tedious, but thankfully we have two excellent performers that help keep my interest. Binoche is superb as always, believably conveying genuine sense of dread and grief. Laâge, whom I’ve never seen before, is equally compelling as the young and enchanting Jeanne and she has quite a natural intensity that is well-matched for Binoche. The stunning backdrop of Sicily is another plus, which also adds an atmospheric and mystical tone to the movie.

That said, I appreciate this movie more than I love it. I’d say it’s worth a watch if you’re a huge fan of Binoche as it could be wearisome in the way the story played out. But for me, I’m still glad I watched it and was quite moved by the lead performances. The story has a haunting quality that lingers long after the end credits, but it also requires an extensive amount of patience to fully appreciate it.

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Have you seen ‘L’Attesa’? I’d love to hear what you think.

Indie film spotlight: DRAGONFLY (2016) & Interview with the creators of the film

Dragonfly

When I first heard about Dragonfly about a year and a half ago, I was immediately intrigued by the fact that it’s a female-led feature and that it’s filmed in the Twin Cities. This is a debut feature for both Maribeth Romslo and Cara Green Epstein (who also wrote AND acted in the film).

I was thrilled that I got the chance to visit the set in early Fall of 2014, at the Public Functionary art gallery in Northeast Minneapolis. It was my first time visiting a film set in Minnesota, so it was so exciting to see the creative minds hard at work making their dreams a reality. Amidst their hectic schedule, both of them greeted me warmly and I had a chat with Cara during filming break.

Fast forward a year and a half later, Dragonfly is one of the indie films that will make its regional premiere at 2016 Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival (MSPIFF). It’s one of the films in competition in the Minnesota Made Narrative Feature category.

 

The story of Dragonfly is about homecoming and healing for a Midwestern family divided by divorce and illness.

Struggling artist Anna Larsen’s mother has never understood her. When her mom is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, Anna returns home to help but brings years of family baggage with her. As she unpacks her past, Anna rediscovers a mysterious mailbox from her childhood and embarks on a search to solve its mystery. What she learns along the way may just be the key to rekindling her own magic.

Check out the trailer below:


Unfortunately, my conversation with Cara that I taped got corrupted somehow, but the three creators of the film were gracious enough to still grant me an interview via email.

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Q: What’s the inspiration for the story of Dragonfly?

Cara: We were interested in exploring the ideas of magic and discovery – how each of us can create magic in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, as well as how much there is to discover about ourselves and those around us. The idea that each of us has our own truth, and that truth is not absolute. In Dragonfly, we are exploring a moment in time when perspective changes profoundly for several characters and each of them is suddenly made aware that their truth is not the only truth and they are able to see each other more clearly and with greater generosity and care.

Dragonfly_creators_onset
Cara, Mim & Maribeth on set

Q: How long did it take all of you from conception to finally getting the project off the ground?

Cara: I posted on FB on November 17, 2013 that I wanted to film something. Maribeth replied a few minutes later that she “knew a girl who could help. ;)” and I asked Mim about a month later if she wanted to produce this short film I was going to write and act in, so that was late 2013. I actually started writing the script in February 2014 and we finished the entire film on November 5, 2015.

Q: I know Cara, you reside in Chicago whilst Mim and Maribeth lives here in town, but what’s the reason behind filming the movie in the Twin Cities?

Cara: Making a movie takes a village and this is where our village is. It’s where Mim and I grew up and it’s where Maribeth is raising her family and where Mim has always lived. Many of the most important people in our lives live here and we knew (hoped) that they would support us in this endeavor. That said, the generosity and support that we have received, and continue to receive from the MN community has blown us away. The Minnesota arts and production community is brimming with talent. There is no doubt about that. But other cities in the country also have people with talent and skills. However, in Minnesota, the extremely talented and skilled arts, film, and commercial community is also exceedingly dedicated, supportive, adventurous, generous, and kind. It is an absolute joy to work here. From pre production through post, Minnesota lived up to the hype and proved itself to be the nicest state in the country to make a film.

A still of Cara at Stonearch Bridge, Minneapolis
A still of Cara at Stonearch Bridge, Minneapolis

Maribeth: Making our film in Minnesota totally spoiled us. It will be hard to make a film elsewhere after the positive experience we had making Dragonfly in Minnesota. At every step and on every level, Minnesota proved itself to be the nicest place ever to make a film.

We received incredible support from the Minnesota Film Board and the Snowbate Program. We were energized by the everyday kindness and excitement of our locations and supportive community. We were blown away by our 528 donors who made the film possible on Kickstarter. Our film was possible because of the open arms and support we found at every turn in Minnesota.

Dragonfly_Mim_quoteMim: Working as an advertising broadcast producer in the Twin Cities I have such a respect for the amazing talent in film that we have locally. It was extremely important to us to tap into this fantastic film community and give the opportunity for many people to work on a feature film.

In addition to majority of the cast and crew of Dragonfly being from MN, the soundtrack exclusively showcases MN artists and bands like Cloud Cult, Caroline Smith, John Hermanson and The Ericksons. This film was really a love letter to Minnesota.

Q: Cara, I know you are a writer, actress and director, as some would say you’re a triple threat. Which of the three do you enjoy most and which you find most challenging? I reckon all of you had to wear multiple hats while filming?

Cara: I’m glad that I wore all three hats on this film because I learned SO MUCH. That said, I wouldn’t do it again because I would want to be able to focus more specifically on each role. I could not have co-directed this film without our director Maribeth. I learned so much about how the camera moves and how to frame a shot and how to use a camera to tell the story from her.

I think that acting is so FUN, especially when you’re not also the writer and a director and a producer ;). I had a great time acting and it was so fun to share the screen with incredible talents like Jennifer Blagen, Terry Hempleman, Matt Biedel, and of course, David Greene. But it was also really challenging to put the blinders on and just focus on being Anna when I was so aware of everything else that was going on in production at the same time.

I’d have to say that my favorite part was and is the writing. I loved creating a world and making up characters and breathing life into them. I really loved telling this story.

Maribeth: Independent film is like pushing a boulder up a hill. It’s making the impossible somehow possible. With no time, and with very little money. Given the crazy challenge of it all, wearing many hats is vital. Everyone from the director to a newbie production assistant all have to make smart and quick decisions to keep the production moving forward.

The_500_hats_of_bartholomew_cubbinsI’d be curious to know how many texts have been sent between Cara, Mim and myself over the last 2 years. I’m sure the number is staggering. One favorite that I’ll always remember is in the thick of production on the film, Mim texted a photo of the cover of the Dr. Seuss book The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. It perfectly captured what making an indie film is. Wearing all the hats to get that boulder up the hill.

Q: Tell us one of the most memorable experiences making this film.

Cara: Oh, there are so many! The last day that we shot with a full crew was the day that you came to set at Public Functionary. That night, at like 1am, we had this hilarious – well, now it’s hilarious but at the time it was incredibly frustrating moment – where we had multiple opinions about how to shoot a small piece of the scene. The shot should have taken 20 minutes, tops, and instead it took like an hour and twenty.

Dragonfly_Cara_quoteAt one point, Maribeth actually stamped her foot in frustration, which, for Maribeth, is like screaming “F*&$!” at the top of your lungs, but she would never do that on set. But then we went back inside and shot this great little improv scene at the bar and then we were done. And I will always remember looking at Mim and Maribeth in disbelief and falling into a group hug with them and just whispering “We did it. I can’t believe we did it. Can you believe we did it?”

Of course, at the time, we didn’t realize that it would be another 13 months before the film was finished. But that was just a completely magical moment. We had taken on this insane challenge, and we had killed it with the help of an absolutely incredible cast and crew.

Maribeth: So hard to pick one, there are so many from production. Shooting at sunrise at the bottom of Minnehaha Falls, a 18 hour day at an art gallery with 40 extras, constantly “holding for plane” because our main location was in a busy flight path to MSP Airport.

But I think the most memorable experience of the whole process was the private screening of the newly finished film that we hosted in November at Riverview Theater. We rented the theater to share the film with our Dragonfly community (cast, crew, family and production supporters) before we shared it with film festivals and the world. Because making an indie film really takes a village, this meant we filled every spot in the 700-seat theater. It was such a beautiful celebration of all of the creative collaboration and hard work, to experience viewing the film for the first time on a big screen with our community.

Dragonfly_onset_pics

Mim: There’s so many but let me tell you about one of the earlier experiences. Originally I came on board to this project thinking this was going to be a short film. We’d shoot a few weekends and we’d be done in a matter of months. Little did I know right? After the first round of creative concepting we realized the story we were telling was much more robust than a short film would allow. And I’ll never forget driving home with Cara, looking out in front of us, and she says blankly “Well…it looks like we’re making a feature” and I said with a gulp “I guess so.” It was so clear that this project had just gotten astronomically bigger in one afternoon but also that this was a daunting adventure that we were ready to embark on. It was the start of everything.

Q: Given that the gender disparity in Hollywood is such a hot topic these days, would you comment a bit about your own experience as a female filmmaker working on your feature debut?

Cara: It’s totally normal to me. I mean, it’s my debut feature so this is what I know. What I will say is that we created a really lovely community of people who care about each other, celebrate each other, and have continued to work together. I’m probably the most proud of that, and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we are community builders and care takers. The relationships on screen and off are important to us. It was also really important to us that everyone – every single person who worked on the film – felt valued. I don’t know how much of that had to do with our being women, or the fact that 50% of our cast and crew were women, but I do think that when different types of people work together, we are all better for it.

Dragonfly_stats

I will also say that I was shocked to discover just how bad the numbers are for women in Hollywood and the amount of sexism that exists there. It’s crazy and I’m glad that we were able to create a reality where that was not the case. And to prove that you can make a kick ass film in the process.

Dragonfly_Maribeth_quoteMaribeth: I have 4 brothers, so I’m not one to be uncomfortable in settings where I’m the only girl. But I’ve found as a filmmaker it happens so often. I once went to a lighting workshop where in a room of 100 filmmakers, I was one of 3 women. And while I’m happy to hang with the guys, it’s an issue because of perspective. More specifically the lack of diversity in the perspectives of storytellers.

I look forward to the day when things become more balanced and I’m just a “filmmaker”, not a “female filmmaker”. But that’s not possible right now, because only 7% of top Hollywood films are directed by women. And that means that the conversation must continue so we can all work together towards more equality and diversity in the perspectives in our storytellers.

Because the stories we tell and experience shape us.

Mim: It was shocking to us when we realized just how rare it was to see women working in Hollywood. As we worked to build Dragonfly’s cast and crew we so often looked for the best person for the job…who more than 50% of the time ended up being a woman. Cara, Maribeth and myself didn’t look to find other women to work on this necessarily…we looked for the best person for the job.

Dragonfly was built on bringing people into our village and making them feel like this experience was worth their while. We asked everyone coming on board what they wanted to get out of this experience and then we did what we could to give them that opportunity. That, I believe, created an atmosphere where people gave an enormous part of themselves to the project. We really felt like family in the end. Women have a lot of stories to tell and are just as creative, innovative and driven as their male counterparts. That was proven to me time and again throughout the making of Dragonfly.


35thMSPIFF

MSPIFF SHOWINGS

St. Anthony Main Theatre 1Sun, Apr 10 7:10 PM
Rochester Galaxy 14 CineSat, Apr 16 4:40 PM


Thank you Cara, Maribeth and Mim for taking the time for the interview!
Special thanks to Ben Epstein & Line Producer Matt Brown for facilitating the set visit.

Dragonfly_setvisit
Maribeth, me and Cara during the set visit in Fall, 2014

Hope you enjoyed the interview. I hope you’d check out Dragonfly when it’s playing near you, or when it arrives on VOD/DVD.

Everybody’s Chattin + Music Break: Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Happy Midweek everybody! Well after a balmy March, April has been pretty darn cold, windy and downright blech! I can’t believe I had to wear my parka today and still I’m freezing my pants off. Well, I remember a snow storm a couple of years ago made me miss the screening for Mud during MSPIFF, so hopefully there won’t be any weather-related fiasco this year.

Speaking of MSPIFF, stay tuned for a wonderful interview post for one of the indie films (made in Minnesota!) I’m looking forward to this weekend. But in the meantime…

Let’s get to those awesome blog posts…

Looks like I’m not the only one excited about a local film festival. Jordan just posted about the French Film Festival in his town of Adelaide and looks like we’ll be seeing a couple of the same films.

Meanwhile, Khalid reviewed one of the films playing at MSPIFF, Dheepan which won a Palme d’Or at Cannes

Batman V Superman might’ve been awful, but the reviews have been entertaining. Such as this one by Margaret. And I so agree w/ what she said about Henry Cavill’s Superman!

Mark reviewed 10 Cloverfield Lane, which sounds like a pleasant surprise to many

Table9Mutant reviewed The Outsiders (1983) which I haven’t seen in ages, but she made me want to rewatch it!

Abbi posted four reviews in her Film Friday series, including The One I Love which sounds the most intriguing of them all.

Steven reviewed The Driver (1978) which was apparently inspired by Le Samourai

On the TV front, Nostra reviewed season 4 of House of Cards

Well, since I’m doing a music break today, I LOVE this Same Song, Different Movie series from Michael. This time it’s the lovely song Theme From A Summer Place by Max Steiner.


Music Break

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Yup I’m still shamelessly obsessed with Pride + Prejudice + Zombies! #sorrynotsorry

Really though, there are sooo many things to love about this movie. In fact the Art of the Title site just posted about the fantastic opening title sequence. Sam Riley’s Colonel Darcy isn’t the only one I’m crazy about, the movie is truly an eye AND ear candy! The score from Spanish composer Fernando Velázquez is absolutely lush and gorgeous, with a touch of dread which is just a perfect combination for a genre mashup movie. He’s done quite a lot of horror films in the past, including Guillermo del Toro produced The Orphanage and Crimson Peak, as well as the disaster drama film The Impossible.

I’ve literally been playing PPZ soundtrack every single day, even at the gym during warm up (I told you I’m obsessed!). The visual soundtrack gives you an idea the tone of the entire album. From the music alone, the refined & genteel Regency era meshes very well with the high action of zombie slaying!

Obviously I LOVE the Colonel Darcy intro and the music is just perfect to accompany his badassery. Right from the moment he steps off his horse in that long, leather duster, my heart was irrevocably gone 😉

These two tracks are simply gorgeous, just what one would expect from an Austen period drama… but with a slight twist.

Thanks Mr. Velázquez, this is now one of my favorite movie soundtracks!

BONUS clip:

As PPZ is more Austen than a zombie flick, it stays true to the core love story in Jane Austen’s classic romance. The music in this scene is beautiful and Riley’s raspy voice is music to my ear.


Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s music break, folks! What’s your fave 2016 soundtrack so far?

Weekend Roundup: counting down to MSPIFF 2016 + ‘Meet the Patels’ documentary (2014) review

How’s your weekend everyone? It’s kind of an uneventful one for me but April is going to be quite busy with the Minneapolis/St Paul Film Fest coming next weekend!!

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I can always rely on MSPIFF to bring an excellent selection of world and regional cinema and independent films, many of which I never would’ve been able to see on the big screen!

I wish I could see at least a couple of films a day but given that I have a 9-5 job, I can only see a handful of them (maybe more if they have online screeners, so we’ll see). If you’re in the area, be sure to take part in MSPIFF and support MN film society. You can see what films are playing here which you can search by genre/country/language, etc. and they have a handy daily schedule as well.

Here are some films I’m looking forward to:


Lots of female filmmakers represented, from MN-made Dragonfly to TWO films by Deepa Mehta (Beeba Boys & Bollywood/Hollywood). I wish I could see the Oscar-nominated for Best Foreign Language film Mustang, but the screenings are both in Rochester which is almost 2 hours away from where I live. It’s tradition that I see one movie with Juliette Binoche at MSPIFF, and this year we’ve got L’atessa, a drama set in Sicily.

So stay tuned for my MSPIFF coverage later this month!


Well, I started my April movie viewing with a mixed bag of movies.

Daredevil2003

The first was Daredevil which I saw out of sheer curiosity. The fact that I just finished Netflix’s Daredevil season 2 last week and also saw Ben Affleck playing yet another superhero (this time from DC) that is Batman in Batman V Superman, made it all the more interesting that I finally saw the 2003 movie. Well, I mainly watched it for the laughs and with that kind of expectation, I wasn’t disappointed 😉

It’s as cheesy, silly and hilarious as people say, my gosh the first fight between Matt and Elektra (played by Affleck’s now ex-wife Jennifer Garner) was so cringe-inducing! Funny that when this movie was made they weren’t even married yet and now they’re already divorced, well that’s Hollywood for ya. As bad as Affleck was in the role though, I think the worst performer is Colin Farrell as Bullseye but really that’s the most idiotic character ever-written. That’s gotta be in the top 3 of Farrell’s most ridiculous roles, right up there with Oliver Stone’s Alexander and whatever his name was in the abominable Winter’s Tale.


The second movie I saw this weekend was a real winner however…

MeetThePatels

I saw the trailer of this doc a while ago but finally got around to seeing it. I tell you, it’s one of the most fun and poignant cultural documentaries I’ve ever seen. Directed by brother and sister Ravi and Geeta Patel, it centers on Ravi himself on a quest to find a wife, with the help of his parents and extended family. Ravi is an Indian-American man who grew up in the United States, and as he’s about to turn 30 with no prospect for a wife, naturally his parents are worried (you could even say panicking).

The journey follows him and his family in looking for a suitable wife in the traditional Indian way. I knew that arranged-marriage has been and still is common among many Indians, I have a few friends who got married in this way and they made no qualms about it. But Ravi, who resides in L.A., is very Americanized and it’s clear he’s got issues with this centuries-old tradition, especially since he’s still not quite over his ex-girlfriend Audrey. The film takes place mostly in the US, but the first act includes him (and his parents) traveling all the way to India, which was quite amusing. But the craziest part was the fact that he flew all over the country and met with various Indian women from coast to coast!
MeetThePatels_familyMeetThePatels_RaviAudrey

It’s really a hilarious documentary from start to finish. It’s decidedly NOT the most visually-arresting doc, as Ravi himself mocked his sister that she’s not really a cinematographer, so the film often looks like a family vacation video shot with a handy-cam. But the *imperfections* are really part of the charm and adds to the authenticity of the movie. What Ravi and Geeta are great at is in the storytelling, which includes fun cartoon segments to illustrate certain scenarios that Ravi go through. I was fully-invested in Ravi’s journey and got a glimpse of what goes on inside a traditional Indian parents when one of their children is in *Code Red*, that is ‘almost 30 and never married.’

All of the people in the docs are Patel’s own family and friends, none of them are played by actors. It also includes interviews with some of Ravi’s friends who are both single and married (either arranged or on their own) so we get interesting perspectives about the subject matter. It’s inevitable that you’ll fall in love with the Patel family and learn a thing or two about Indian culture in the most delightful way. I can’t recommend this one enough, it’s part documentary and part romantic-comedy that’s wonderfully entertaining.

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So that’s my weekend recap folks. What did you see this weekend, anything good?