TCFF Insider Series: KID WEST movie & my interview w/ filmmaker Jesse Mast

I first met Minnesota filmmaker Jesse Mast when he was premiering his action thriller short The Just starring Michael Madsen back in 2015 at TCFF. I then met him again at one of the TCFF after parties when I first heard him talking about the idea for Kid West.

So I was thrilled that Twin Cities Film Fest is presenting this movie as part of its INSIDER SERIES event. I’m always intrigued by the process of filmmaking, especially indie films now that I’ve dipped my toes into making my first short film. I have even more appreciation and respect for indie filmmakers and am always grateful for the opportunity to learn from them.

Synopsis:

A young spitfire cowgirl, and her coolheaded Native American friend, race a gang of neighborhood bullies to find a mysterious treasure supposedly having mystical powers.

This event will take place on
Monday, July 31 7 PM – 10 PM
The Heights Theatre

3951 Central Ave NE,
Columbia Heights, MN 55421

Go to TCFF official site for more info & to get tickets

You went from doing an action thriller to a family adventure film. What’s the inspiration behind this movie?

Somehow I knew I’ll be asked this question. The short answer is: my wife. She told me a while back, if you want to win over my heart with a movie. Give me kids or charming old people. Some movies combine them, sometimes it’s one or the other. I immediately thought about doing a Western. So I have an idea for a modern Western with kids. That started to develop a little bit. Overall what I wanted to do as a filmmaker is take the spirit of films that I love and repackage them with original characters for new audiences. So taking inspiration from Indiana Jones, Kid West was created.

So this film is basically a combination of what my wife said to me and my desire to make films that were birthed from films that I love.

So did you go on to write the script once the concept is developed? I know you worked with another writer for this film?

Yes, his name is Nick Bain. He lives in LA but originally from Minnesota. We had written another script together the year before that we thought ‘oh hopefully we’ll get to make this into a film one day’ But when that one had to be put on the shelf, I asked if he’d be willing to write Kid West with me. I don’t like writing first drafts. I’m such a perfectionist and so much has to change so I asked him, ‘hey would you consider writing the first drafts?’ He wrote a lot of really good stuff and then I went in and change what needed to change. I’m really glad we worked together on this. I find that working a script by yourself is really hard, so having him to collaborate with was really great.

How long ago did you finish the script?

The script was finalized in February 2016. Then we shot it in the Summer of 2016. So the script was totally done five months before we started shooting.

What’s the process from the time the script is finished to shooting the film? Five months doesn’t seem like a long time of pre-prod for a feature.

We did some pre-production that happened before that. The most important part is raising the funds to make this movie.

So can you talk a bit about how you raised the funds for your film?

Yeah I raised nearly all the funds (about 80%) through donations from friends and family. These are people who want to see me succeed. They’d say ‘here’s money towards your film.’ A few people gave a large gift, some are smaller. So we didn’t go through Indiegogo or Kickstarter, I mean there’s nothing wrong with those things. But I thought if I were to raise money for this, it’d be from people I know, those who believe in me. So I raised half the budget by the time the script was done. Then I knew I needed to raise the rest by the time we finished shooting. So I had raised enough to film it, to hire the actors, etc. While I was doing post production, I raised more money for that. Once the script was done, that’s when I worked on casting. Then when casting was done, then I worked on pre-production stuff.

That’s a good segue as my next question is casting. I love the young actress Mary Bair who’s the lead of your film. How did you find her?

I’m friends with a SAG actor by the name of Bruce Bohne and I went and saw him in To Kill A Mockingbird at the Guthrie in the Fall of 2015. I saw a lot of young talented actors in the play. So I ended up casting four out of the six kids in the movie from that play, including Mary, who played Scout in the play. There were a few other adult actors from there that I ended up casting as well. So anyway, Bruce was friends with Mary’s mom and I said, ‘hey can you get me in touch with her?’ So I contacted her about my interest in casting Mary in my film. I basically sat down with her and offered her the role right then and there. Seeing someone perform in something is a great audition. You just knew they could do [this role in my film] when I saw her in this play.

How about Ashley Rose Montondo? How did you come to cast her?

Ashley was also part of To Kill A Mockingbird. So Bruce, Ashley, Ansa Akyea, Regina Williams were all in this play. When I saw them perform I was like, ‘oh they’re great!’

Where was the film shot in the Twin Cities?

It’s mostly shot in the east side of the cities near Wisconsin. In a town called Bayport. Bayport is a cute little quiet town. I have a childhood friend who lives there growing up so we had some fun memories there. But I wanted the look of the film to look like what it would look like when I was growing up. I wanted a nostalgic look of a town. I tell people that Kid West is like The Sandlot meet Raiders For The Lost Ark with 12 year-old girls. So when I said The Sandlot versus The Goonies or The Little Rascals which was fun but a little silly, but The Sandlot has a lot of charm and a lot of depth. It’s not as ‘adult’ as Stand By Me, which has a lot of mature themes. Kid West is more lighthearted. But The Sandlot, you still take it seriously. You care about the people, they’re very real, very charming. It’s lighter in its tone but it’s not silly.

What do you love about making Kid West?

I like that there’s a lot of humor in Kid West. And that’s something that, after I made The Just, which I enjoyed, I like the action in it, but there’s barely any moment of levity in the whole thing. I think the audience loves to laugh. When they see a movie, they want to feel something and maybe the most they want to feel is a release of laughter. Even when I’m watching a drama, when there’s an unexpected thing that comes up, it’s always a laugh out loud moment because it gives you a breather from the seriousness. I feel like The Just didn’t have any of that, it didn’t have any breather, it’s all suspense. But with Kid West, there is suspense and moments of serious action but it’s action that made you grin y’know, and the humor is strong. I’m looking forward to the premiere and hopefully there’ll be moments of laughter from the audience.

Lastly, your film will be available in Amazon in August. What has been the challenges for you in getting distribution?

What I’ve learned about Amazon is that they try to make it very easy for independent filmmakers to get their films out to the audience. Over the last six to eight months I’ve emailed them many times, asking specific questions. They’ve been very clear, very quick in their responses. The difficulty for any independent filmmakers has always been ‘how do you get your film out? How do you make some money?’ and there are different ways to go, but when another filmmaking friend told me about Amazon, I thought it was a good idea. I mean, you don’t sell your rights to them, it doesn’t cost anything and when you submit your film, for every sale, for every rental, they split the cost 50/50. So they get half, we get half. For every stream we get a little bit of money. I would love to continue to choose Amazon in the future… I think it’s a great avenue for this, I mean everybody knows Amazon. As soon as your film is on there, you’re putting the film into someone’s pocket. They can watch it on their phone, their tablet, etc. I mean the reach is amazing.

Thanks Jesse for taking the time to chat w/ me!


Day 3 Reviews: Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made doc, Remember & Counter Clockwise

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Can’t believe Day 4 is almost over and I’ve just finally got a chance to actually post my reviews of Day 3. The adrenaline rush actually helps keep me going, as I managed to write TWO reviews in one hour. That’s pretty fast for me but I’m sure more skilled bloggers/critics are used to that. The two films I saw back to back were excellent, and the same is true for Day 4 (review should be up tomorrow).

So here are two of my reviews from Day 3 and one from blog contributor Ted S.:

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Raiders! The Story Of The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

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One of the things I love about TCFF is that I get to consume more documentaries in a span of two weeks than I normally do in a given year. It really doesn’t get more exhilarating-ly entertaining than this one. Basically the premise is what it says in the title. In 1982, a trio of 11-year-old kids remade Raiders of the Lost Ark shot for shot, and they completed everything except for one scene, which is the action-packed plane scene. Thirty years later, the guys reunited to complete that very scene.

I love how the film went back to the genesis of the seemingly-bonkers idea of actually making it happen. It shows how Eric and Chris (who played Indy) went to pitch to a producer to get funding and walking away geedily with a $5000 check. The rest of the film show actual footage of the young boys filming in Eric’s family home, over the course of seven years his family house is turned into a film set! The boys’ family members are part of the ‘talking heads’ in the film, sharing their experience witnessing their kids being absorbed by their passion of making this film. It literally consumed seven Summer breaks of their lives and you just can’t help to be enraptured by their endeavor.
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I used the term ‘enraptured’ because I don’t think it’s a hyperbole. It was easy to root for these guys and see them succeed! Their little *remake* film that was titled Raiders of the Lost Ark Adaptation somehow got the attention of Eli Roth and the film ended up playing at Butt-Numb-A-Thon Film Fest, held annually in Austin TX. It was hilarious to see the audience being so excited watching this grainy, amateurish footage made by a bunch of kids and they actually booed when the film fest turned it off to show the scheduled LOTR sequel Two Towers! It was rather shocking that people would rather see this than the latest Peter Jackson’s masterpiece. But once you see this documentary, it’s easy to see why!

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I’m not gonna reveal some of the big surprises of the film as I think it’s more fun that you discover them for yourself. This is the purest form of passion for filmmaking and you can’t help but cheer that creativity and teamwork is at the heart of the project, as opposed to money & fame. A must-see for any Indiana Jones’ fans, but it will entertain anyone who loves a good documentary.

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The main draw for me to see this is definitely Christopher Plummer, and he definitely shines in yet another Oscar-worthy performance. He plays Zev, an elderly man suffering from dementia living in a Jewish nursing home. His wife Ruth just passed away two weeks prior but Zev is still calling her name when he wakes up. One night during a [party], Zev’s friend Max (Martin Landau) called him aside and gives him a letter and a great deal of cash. Later that night Zev gets into a cab with only a small black pouch as his only luggage.

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We soon find out he’s on a quest to find a former Nazi officer who murdered his family some 70 years ago is living in America under an assumed identity. It’s a plan he and Max have cultivated for years, to be executed as soon as his wife passed on. Max convinced him he’s the only one who could still recognize that man and that he must pay for what he has done. So the rest of the film follows Zev in his journey, via a train, bus, etc. all the way to Canada. Everything I expected about this film is constantly surpassed as the film gets more unpredictable and darker as time progressed. Plummer carried the film with such skill and aplomb, and you’re transfixed by him. It helps to have such a strong actor as he’s pretty much in every scene and for the most part he’s the only one on screen.

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There have been so many Nazi vengeance tales been made on screen before and yet this one manages to inject something new and different into the sub-genre. That alone is a feat in and of itself. Director Atom Egoyan made this with not much frills but the film is brimming with mystery and suspense. And that finale, wow, I certainly did not see it coming. That’s all I can say as it’s best that you know as little as possible. I’m still reeling from it and ponder about all the clues I might’ve been missing as I was watching it. I also love that the seemingly generic and even boring title actually fits the plot VERY well and I can’t imagine a better title for it.

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CounterClockwiseReview

I love time traveling stories; it’s always fun to imagine how we can change the future by traveling back in time or see the future if we travel ahead in time. There have been several films that have covered these kinds of stories and this latest one didn’t really try to come up with anything new to tell.

A scientist named Ethan (the totally miscast Michael Kopelow) and his partner Ceil (Alice Rietveld) are trying to create a time machine. But it appears they’ve failed several times, after an experiment gone bad, Ceil is upset and both left their facility. Later Ethan came back the facility and accidentally transported himself into the future where he’s being accused of killing his wife and her sister. He’s also being pursues by a bunch of thugs and who apparently knew about the time machine. In order to find out what happened and clear his name, Ethan has to travel through time again.

CounterClockwise_stillI believe had this movie been a short story, it would’ve worked much better. With a weak leading actor and shoestring budget, stretching a story to full length feature just didn’t work. It also didn’t help that the filmmakers copied every elements from other time traveling movies like The Terminator and Back to the Future. Also, I don’t get the sudden switch to Quentin Tarantino style by showing burst of violence and each character dropping the F-bombs every five seconds.

Not the worse low budget film I’ve seen but not very good either.

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Thoughts on any one of these movies? Well, let’s hear it!

The Spielberg Blogathon: Reminiscing about Raiders of the Lost Ark & Jurassic Park

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This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Once Upon A Screen taking place August 23-24. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs

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When Ruth asked me to participate in the Steven Spielberg blogathon, I wasn’t sure what to write about so I figured I should do a write up about two films of his that I’ve watched many times. These two films also made me into a film fanatic and home theater enthusiast that I am today.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

I was born in the Far East and the martial arts films was the only genre I’d watch, but after seeing this film I became a fan of American action films. I think I was about 8 or 9 years old when I first saw this film, my family and I were living in the Philippines Islands at the time and I saw it at some old movie theater. I was too young to really understood what the film was about but the visual and of course the action pulled me in. I still remember that the film’s climatic scene gave me nightmares, I freaked out when I saw the villains’ faces melt off and they were burned alive.

But I still thought the film was magic and when my family and I arrived to the States a year later, I begged my parents to buy me a VHS copy of the film. What’s so funny was that I didn’t know there were sequels until I saw a TV spot of The Last Crusade the year we arrived in the States. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the third film on the big screen but watched it several times on VHS. Then a couple of years later I watched Temple of Doom on the old Sci-Fi Channel. I enjoyed the two sequels but to me Raiders is still the best in the series.

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I’ve owned this film on many formats, first I had the VHS copy then later when I was able to afford a LaserDisc player, I bought a LD version of the film. When DVD became popular, I of course bought the DVD set then just a couple of years ago I got the Bluray set, unfortunately I had to buy the dreadful fourth film too.

Since Spielberg is a big fan of David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia is one of his favorite films, he even stated that the film’s script is the best ever written, so Raiders of the Lost Ark was his ultimate tribute to Lean’s classic film.

 

Jurassic Park

The summer of 1993 was dubbed Arnold vs. Sly since both of those action stars had two big films opening in the same summer and the so-called industry “experts” predicted that Sly’s Cliffhanger and Arnold’s Last Action Hero would dominate the box office. Of course Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was also one of the hyped up films but no one expected it would stomped both Sly’s and Arnold’s films. Sure I was excited to see new action films from Sly and Arnold but I super excited to see this film about dinosaurs. It’s one of the first films to have included full CGI effects in many scenes and it’s about dinosaurs!

Yes, like many kids back in those days, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and I’ve just finished Michael Crichton’s novel that it’s based on. I still remember to this day which theater I saw the film at on opening weekend and still remember how at awe I was after the film was over. The first time I saw the CGI dinosaurs, my jaw dropped and throughout the film, I had a smile on my face. It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at the cinemas. I actually went to see the film twice on the opening weekend, around this time digital surround sound was pretty new in movie theaters so I wanted to hear the T-Rex’s roar in full digital sound over and over again. I was bummed that I couldn’t make it to the re-release on IMAX last year. With an opening weekend of over $50mil, it’s a record opening at that time. I think the summer of 1993 should’ve been called, T-Rex stomped Sly and Arnold.

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Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, I’ve owned this film on many formats. First VHS then LaserDisc and years later on DVD. Recently I bought it on Bluray but I have yet to watch it. Apparently Universal didn’t give the film a proper HD transfer so I was hesitant to buy it. Since I haven’t watched the film in a couple of years, I need to see and hear it in HD soon. This film also turned me into a home theater enthusiast, as mentioned earlier, I saw the film at a theater that has the new digital surround sound and after experiencing that, I wanted to have a home theater. Of course being a high school kid, I didn’t have the money to buy home theater products yet. But as I’ve gotten older and can earn bigger pay checks, I’ve invested some good amount of cash on home entertainment. In a way, I can thank and blame this Spielberg’s film for making me obsess with home theater.

Spielberg is one of the best filmmakers ever and these two films proved that he can make films that can please both the critics and audiences.

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What do you think of these two films, were you lucky enough to have seen them on the big screen? Do share your memories on the comments section.

The Spielberg Blogathon: My Top 10 Favorite Spielberg-Directed Films

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This post is part of the SPIELBERG BLOGATHON hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, It Rains… You Get Wet, and Once Upon A Screen taking place August 23-24. Please visit these host blogs for a full list of participating blogs

I first learned about this blogathon from my pal Michael’s blog, and having grown up watching a bunch of Spielberg’s films, naturally I have to take part! Steven Spielberg is such a legend because so many of his films are not only entertaining but they have such strong emotional resonance and timeless quality about them. For this list, I’m focusing on the 50+ films that Spielberg has directed, as there are nearly 150 projects that he has produced for both TV and film. I didn’t realize this until I made the list but the scores of ALL of the films on my top 10 are done by John Williams! I guess I shouldn’t be surprised as a lot of the scores also made my top 10 scores by the legendary composer.

So here they are ranked from bottom to top so #1 is my MOST favorite 😀

10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

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Many great sci-fis dealing with artificial intelligence make us ponder what it means to be human, and this film definitely did so. The story about a robot boy who desires to be real and craves real love from his parents was poignant and emotional, it’s not a cold or distant type of sci-fi that’s more concerned about cool set pieces and futuristic designs. The moral dilemmas presented here are genuinely thought provoking, with compelling performances from Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law and Frances O’Connor.

9. The Terminal (2004)

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It’s a story about an immigrant from an Eastern European country finds himself stranded in JFK airport. Though the story takes a lot of liberty from the real thing, I was quite engrossed and entertained by this. It’s perhaps one of my favorite Tom Hanks‘ performance in an underrated but endearing role. Hanks is an immensely and effortlessly likable actor, which makes him the perfect actor to portray Viktor Navorski. Even with an exaggerated Russian-sounding accent, the actor is at his most charming here as he befriends the airport staff and even took a chance at romance. This is also the first time I saw the then-unknown Zoë Saldana as a Trekkie Immigration Officer, which is interesting as she later plays Uhura in the J.J. Abrams movie!

8. Catch Me If You Can (2005)

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Leo DiCaprio at his most charming and, with his Jack Dawson looks and that devil-may-care swagger. I guess this is like Wolf of Wall Street lite as both Jordan Belfort and Frank Abagnale Jr are both charming con artists. I love the retro look and feel of the movie and the sense of fun in the chase as the FBI are on to catch the teenage fraudster. The dynamic between Frank and the federal agent played by Tom Hanks is fun to watch, they definitely play off each other well. There are also great supporting cast and cameo throughout, including Christopher Walken, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Garner. The lighter tone somehow work nicely here, with the darker moments only sprinkled throughout which showcase Frank’s vulnerability to great effect.

7. Empire of the Sun (1987)

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I saw this one fairly recently and I wish I had seen it sooner. Even at such a young age, it’s evident that Christian Bale had the chops to carry a film. I’m usually not into war films but I do like it when it focuses more on a certain character’s life being affected by war and this one shows that from the perspective of a young boy named Jim ‘Jamie’ Graham. There is an epic quality to the production, as one would expect from Spielberg, yet it feels personal and intimate at the same time. I love the unlikely relationship between Jamie and the soldiers in the camp, particularly Basie (John Malkovich). It’s a wonderful coming-of-age story and a survival tale that certainly lingers long after the end credits.

6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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I was pretty young when I saw this movie and it’s one of those movies that one simply doesn’t forget. It might’ve been one of the earliest movies about alien that I saw [well apart from Superman which came out a few years before] and perhaps cemented my love for sci-fi movies. There’s a sense of wonderment in Spielberg movies that definitely appealed to this wide-eyed kid filled with curiosity. The fact that I was the same age as Drew Barrymore‘s character when I saw this made me identify with her even more. I remember wondering what it would be like if there were such an alien creature living in my grandma’s garage. E.T. is the kind of film that fuels the imagination and of course it’s got so much heart, who didn’t at least tear up watching the bicycle scene as it flies across the full moon? It’s also one of the most iconic cinematic scenes ever.

5. Minority Report (2002)

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I regard this as one of my favorite sci-fi movies. I own the Blu-ray and on recent rewatch, I was amazed how this movie still holds up to this day. A lot of futuristic films often look dated even a few years after they’re released but somehow the concepts still feel fresh and modern. The whole *Precrime* notion doesn’t seem all that far-fetched now, not to mention having those annoying ads who know who we are. It’s interesting to see how some of the technology presented here have been realized, while some are still being dreamed up [wonder if we’d have flying cars by 2054? Wouldn’t that be nice?]. I find this movie immensely entertaining and intriguing, with Tom Cruise playing what he does best as a former cop on the run. Though I’ve seen this repeatedly, I’m still surprised by that twist towards the end, thanks to a great performance by Max von Sydow and Colin Farrell. Samantha Morton is also memorable here as one of the three Precogs who could predict the future.

4. Schindler’s List (1993)

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One of the most, if not THE most, essential holocaust film ever made, this film is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. I’ve only seen Schindler’s List once but it’s one I shall never forget, in fact, some of the scenes are forever etched in my mind. It’s one of the most powerful displays of the best AND worst of humanity, as well as a testament how a single person can make a difference even in the most dire circumstances. There are so many indelible performances here, Liam Neeson as the hero is as iconic as Ralph Fiennes‘ villainous turn as Amon Goeth. John Williams‘ evocative, soul-piercing score makes the whole experience even more unforgettable. It’s not a hyperbole to call this one Spielberg’s masterpiece.

3. Jurassic Park (1993)

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I had just rewatched this recently and I was reminded by how wonderfully entertaining this is. Even the latest Godzilla still falls short as it lacks that sense of wonderment and sense of humor. Jurassic Park is such a thrilling ride from start to finish, filled with great, memorable characters courtesy of Jeff Goldblum, Sam Neill and Laura Dern. Of course those cloned dinosaurs are wildly entertaining, as terrifying as they are dazzling thanks to the special effects prowess of Stan Wilson & co. Too bad the sequels never measure up to this amazing original film.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

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I’m still mad at Spielberg for ruining his own awesome franchise with that godawful fourth movie! I grew up watching the Indiana Jones movies with my two older brothers and to this day I’m still a huge fan of the first and third movies. Infused with fun action, special effects and a dose of good humor, it’s the quintessential action adventure that never gets old with multiple rewatches. Plus you’ve got an awesome heroine who’s equally charming & fun to watch, Karen Allen‘s Marion. The chemistry between the two is perfect, absolutely perfect. Speaking of perfection, Harrison Ford made the role of the archaeologist adventurer so iconic. It’s crazy to think that George Lucas wasn’t keen on casting him initially [Tom Selleck was the first choice], I really can’t imagine anyone topping Ford as Indy in the inevitable remakes.

1. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

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This is one of my favorite movies of all time, not just from Spielberg but of ALL movies I’ve seen in my life. There are just so much to love here, even more so than the first one thanks to the inspired casting of Sean Connery as Indy’s father, Dr. Henry Jones Sr. They’ve become my favorite cinematic duo ever, apparently there was an inside joke to say that James Bond is the father of Indiana Jones, ha! There are quite a few actors here who’ve been in various Bond movies: John Rhys-Davies, Alison Doody & Julian Glover, they’re all great in their respective roles. This movie has everything I loved about the first movie, but on top of the sense of humor and rousing adventure, we’ve got that spiritual aspect going for it that fits perfectly with the familial theme of the film. That whole finale in the mysterious Holy Grail is so wonderfully-filmed and leaves a lasting impression for years to come.

 


HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

1975 Jaws
2005 Munich
2005 War of the Worlds
2011 The Adventures of Tintin
2011 War Horse

Well that’s my top 10 faves from Spielberg. Which movie(s) would be on YOUR top 10 list?

Aloha! Hawaii on my mind… what’s your fave movie(s) set in America’s tropical paradise?

Happy Monday, everybody! Well, as I mentioned on my monthly roundup, I’ll be off for a two-week vacation to my hometown Jakarta and then Hawaii on our way back to Minnesota. So in less than two weeks, I’ll be arriving in Hawaii, Kauai to be specific. This will be my second time in Hawaii as I went to Honolulu when I was about 13 with my family, but my first time on Kauai island.

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Anini Beach – the closest beach to our resort

It’s no surprise that America’s tropical paradise has been a popular spot for the movies and TV shows. I grew up watching Tom Selleck in his indecently short shorts in Magnum P.I. and I think my brothers like watching the original Hawaii Five-O. I quite like the current remake on CBS as well though I haven’t been watching it much lately (I’m horrible with keeping up w/ TV shows!)

FromHeretoEternityAs far as movies go, there seems to be a ton of films set in Hawaii. The busy Hawaii Film Office calls the islands ‘Hollywood’s Tropical Backlot.’ Perhaps the generous production tax credit makes it a welcoming place for filming, on top of the welcoming climate and spectacular locations of course. From classics like From Here to Eternity, Blue Hawaii, and Tora! Tora! Tora! to contemporary ones like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Punch Drunk Love, Pearl Harbor and Oscar-nominated The Descendants, there have been some popular films set on the islands. Even some of the non-CGI scenes of Avatar were shot in Hawaii. As this site pointed out, the two leads of the movie actually filmed some scenes on location in order to “… give them all a taste of how the scenes would feel if they were being shot in a real rain forest.”

JurassicParkFallsJust on Kauai alone, there are a dozen movies set on the fourth largest island on the archipelago (per gohawaii.com). Of course the most notable one being Jurassic Park (though the theme park was filmed in the family-owned Kualoa Ranch in Oahu island). I can’t wait to take the helicopter ride to Manawaiopuna Falls, or the Jurassic Park Falls as it’s become known for. The breathtaking 360-foot high falls is in my list of memorable waterfalls in the movies I made almost exactly a year ago. I need to rewatch that movie one of these days, it’s one of my fave movies of the 90s and surely on my top 10 from Spielberg.

My top three movies set in Hawaii (of the ones I have seen so far) would include Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and The Descendants. Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor would make my worst, ahah.


So now your turn. What are your top three movies set in Hawaii?

Monthly Roundup: October Movie Watching Recap

Buh-bye October. Welcome November!


Btw, I just realized after I posted it that it’s my 1000th’s Blog Post!! I guess time flies when you’re doing something you love. Thanks everyone who’ve made it so worthwhile for me to blog day after day!



Daylight Saving Time ends at 2 a.m. this Sunday! So for those who live in states that observe DST, don’t forget to set your clock back an hour! I love it ’cause we get an extra hour of sleep! 🙂

I’ve got to admit I was looking forward to doing this month’s recap as I saw the most movies in October than any other month, yay! Thanks to TCFF, I saw 13 films in just 9 days, so those combined with some new releases, I ended up seeing about 17 NEW movies!

I’ve also been blogging a ton… not just TCFF but also organizing the Small Roles… Big Performances blog-a-thon that started on October 1. Thank you everybody who have participated and those who’ve been promoting it on various social media. It was a blast reading everyone’s posts and shining a spotlight on actors who should get more recognition for their work!

Well, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from October:

Well, what did I manage to watch this month?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

I think I’ve covered that above. I saw more indie movies during TCFF than I normally do in a given month, which is awesome. I highly recommend Things I Don’t Understand, Dead Dad, Take Care and the documentary A Place at the Table when they’re available to rent on iTunes or Netflix.

Re-watch:

  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Point Break
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark

Total Movies Watched: 20

Favorite October Movie(s):

The Sapphires is my favorite movie from TCFF and ARGO tops the new releases I saw in October. Both of them are inspired by a true story, though they couldn’t be more different from each other in terms of story and tone. I highly recommend both of these, especially the first one as it’ll probably be out in limited release. I might even rent it again when it’s out on iTunes!

Now, before I let you off, check out this awesome promo video for Air New Zealand. They partnered with WETA Workshop on a brand new Hobbit-inspired Safety Video, complete with special cameos. LOVE it!!


So, what movies did you get to see in October and which one is your favorite?

Weekend Roundup – Indiana Jones, BBC’s Sherlock + Chasing Mavericks Review

Today I truly appreciate the simple things in life. Well not that I wouldn’t any other day but especially so the past couple of days after reading all the news and weather updates on the Frankenstorm that is Hurricane Sandy. The fact that I can drive peacefully on the road without being pounded by crazy winds and heavy rain, and the fact that I have electricity in the house and place of work. The Empire State Building was trending last night on Twitter and it turned out it was because of this instagram of the Empire State Building’s light that shone when NYC went completely dark. What an eerie but yet striking image.

My thoughts and prayers goes out to everyone in the path of the storm… please do stay safe!

This weekend I actually opt for home cinema as I’ve seen both Cloud Atlas and Chasing Mavericks early last week. We had bought the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set a couple of weeks ago but couldn’t watch ’em right away as I had to cover for TCFF.

We rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was still as entertaining as ever. The picture quality is just brilliant, and Harrison Ford is perfectly cast as the rugged explorer, I really can’t picture anyone else in this role so whoever’s gonna replace him in the reboot would have HUGE shoes to fill. I also love Karen Allen as Marion, her spunk and demeanor reminds me so much of Margot Kidder as Lois Lane!

We finally caught up with BBC’s Sherlock Season 2, starting with Scandal in Belgravia. It’s by far the most confusing episode for me, the plot is just so darn complicated for my little brain. But still it’s entertaining to watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the odd couple and there are some really hilarious moments, especially when they first encounter Lara Pulver as Irene Adler. I thought she was brilliant in the role — Sherlock’s definitely met his match in her and watching the two psychopaths flirt with each other is quite amusing.


Now, on to the review:

I’m NOT a surfer, I’ve never even been ON a surfboard, not on land, let alone on water. But something about the surfers’ lifestyle fascinates me so I don’t think you need to know anything about surfing to enjoy this film.

The film tells the true story of Jay Moriarity, a young Santa Cruz surfer who’s immortalized in the Live Like Jay movement that just celebrated the 10th anniversary of his death last June. It was a short life as he drowned when he went diving in the Maldives just a day shy of his 23rd birthday, but the movie showed just how he lived.

Jay (Jonny Weston) first met Frosty Hesson (Gerry Butler) when Frosty rescued him from the ocean when he was only 8 years old. That experience didn’t put him off surfing, in fact, the opposite is true. He found it to be his true calling, not unlike someone like Felix Baumgartner who has a penchant for heights. Jay just loved the water and that 40-foot waves seems to be calling his name each time it hit the shores.

The fact that he lives with a single mom and an absentee father, he also yearns for a father figure and he finds that in Frosty, even though he himself is a loner who doesn’t seem to have it all together despite having a saintly wife (Abigail Spencer) and two kids. Predictably, the two bonded as Frosty trains Jay to be able to achieve his dream to chase ‘Mavericks,’ which refers to the surfing location north of Half Moon Bay in California where after a strong winter storm could top out at over 80 feet! I appreciate that this is truly a movie about surfing, not about some girl in a bikini or a procedural action flick. It focuses on the sport and shows the dedication it takes to be a darn good surfer in a sport where even the smallest miscalculation could cost one his/her life. Butler himself surely knew that by heart as he experienced a near-death accident when he was knocked off his board by a freak wave during filming. Talk about suffering for your art!

Jay certainly has a story worth telling, though I wish the story could’ve been as groundbreaking as the subject matter. Seems like when the movie is not so much focused on surfing, the script sort of loses its footing, so there’s barely any depth to any of the relationships portrayed in the film aside from Jay and Frosty’s. Even the romance between Jay and his eventual wife Kim (Leven Rambin) is so darn cheesy it comes off like an after school special.

The formulaic script really doesn’t give the actors any favors. It’s really too bad as I think Butler shows what he’s capable of all along. It’s an understated role that shows his vulnerable side, so it’s not the typical alpha-male action hero he’s known for. He not only look the part with his svelte physique and surfer hair, but he’s also got that convincing surfer swagger. As for Weston, I had been skeptical about his casting initially but I thought he captured the jovial spirit of what I picture Jay would be. The female characters are under-developed however, with Elisabeth Shue as Jay’s mother suffers the worst fate of being completely wasted here. There’s also an attempt to add a ‘villainy’ character in the film that goes absolutely nowhere.

What I do love about it is the spectacular cinematography that captures the glory of surfing. Those giant waves are amazing, and I’m glad I saw this on the big screen! I love that it was filmed on location which adds a high level of authenticity to the film. One of the main draw of this movie for me is the fact that L.A. Confidential’s director Curtis Hanson’s at the helm (reportedly Hanson had to bow out of filming because of health reasons and Michael Apted took over, so they share directing credit). I do think given the filmmakers’ credentials, this could’ve been a lot more compelling, but it’s not a bad movie by any means. In fact, I’m glad to hear according to Santa Cruz Patch, this film was well-received by the community where Jay used to surf.

I think a lot of the lessons that Jay learns in this movie, about the ‘Four Pillars of the Human Foundation’ and other disciplines can be applied to other parts of lives. The rousing ending is quite a spectacle, with those giant, mystical waves taking center stage and I could see how surfing is as much a mental sport as it is a demanding physical one.

3 out of 5 reels


P.S. I’m quite bummed that his movie was a total bomb. I didn’t expect it to be in the top five, but I certainly didn’t think it’d do so badly with a paltry $2.2 mil. Vulture asked Why Does Hollywood Think America Likes Surfing? and seems like the sub-genre of surfing movies are inherently not very marketable. Ah well, I’m glad I saw it and I’m glad they brought Jay’s story to life in this one.


Well, that’s it for the roundup this week. How ’bout you, seen anything good?