FlixChatter Review: PILGRIMAGE (2017)

It’s been ages since I’ve got time to write a review, but I knew I had to write one for this after I saw it last weekend.

I’ve mentioned PILGRIMAGE all the way back in January 2016. It’s been a long time coming but I’m glad I got to see it on the big screen (though it’s a shame it’s only playing in a single theatre in Twin Cities suburbs with odd screen times!)

In 13th century Ireland, a group of monks must escort a sacred relic across an Irish landscape fraught with peril.

The premise is simple, but it’s packs a punch in terms of its thought-provoking story and the unrelenting violence these monks face along the journey. It opens with a horrific stoning of Saint Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot following his betrayal. The barren landscape of Ireland, an island on the edge of the world is striking… there’s otherworldly feel to this raw, beautifully-shot film that immediately grabs your attention.

I saw this film mainly for the French actor Stanley Weber who plays a Cistercian priest, Brother Geraldus, and boy did he make quite an entrance. He came to the monastery and soon the monks are on a pilgrimage to escort a holy relic all the way to Rome. Naturally there’s tension mounting between the monks themselves, each have their own views of the significance of this relic.

Pilgrimage explores the themes of what faith means to people. It’s not a deep study of the subject, but it certainly makes a compelling case about religious fanaticism and that radical ‘faith’ can ultimately lead to radical consequences. The film is more of an ensemble cast comprised of four main characters, Tom Holland as Brother Diarmuid (the novice), Stanley Weber as the Cisterian, Jon Bernthal (the mute with a violent past) and Richard Armitage (Norman knight Raymond). I’d say Bernthal is perhaps the most fascinating of the four, simply because of his charismatic, wordless performance that makes you wonder throughout just exactly who this man is. He’s loyal to a fault to the monks but you know he’s a ruthless and dangerous man. It’s a physical role but that demands a quiet menace which Bernthal pulls off with aplomb.

Acting-wise, Holland, Bernthal and Weber are the most memorable to me. Armitage is good but I feel like he’s basically reprising his role as Guy of Gisborne in BBC Robin Hood, though his French is rather impressive. Interesting that Holland and Bernthal are now part of the lucrative Marvel Cinematic Universe (as Spiderman and Punisher respectively), but they’re both such talented actors that I hope they’ll continue to seek out smaller work such as this one that stretch their acting ability. Weber might not be a household name yet despite being cast in season 2 of Outlander, but he’s certainly got the charisma and acting chops of a leading man.

The film is quite violent, especially the attack in the woods that left practically everyone slashed, chopped and bludgeoned to death. There’s also a torture scene involving a Medieval torture device that sure made me wince. The action didn’t let up until the very end, set in a desolate beach that really takes your breath away. It’s so refreshing to see something unique that doesn’t fit the Hollywood mold. This is one of those rare films that’s not based on any literary works but is an original script by Jamie Hannigan. I love that director Brendan Muldowney also uses many languages in the film, Gaelic, French, Latin, English. I also appreciate that the film is shot on location, you can practically feel the misty air and cold breeze as you’re watching the film, which adds to the intense, gritty and bloody realism of the film.

If this is playing near you, I urge you to see it on the big screen. We need to support original films like this one as it’s becoming even more of a rarity. Made with a shoestring budget yet generates a big impact, I certainly don’t mind seeing this again on Bluray. I so agree with Keith’s review that big budgets aren’t essential to good moviemaking… and this film is definitely a testament of that.



Have you seen ‘PILGRIMAGE’? Well, what did you think? 

Week In Review: A comedic play, Spider-man Homecoming and podcasting

How’s your weekend everyone? Well it’s been quite a whirlwind week for me, but a fun one nonetheless. I didn’t get an extra day off for Fourth of July, but still a four-day work week is better than five 🙂

I did manage to see a fun play on Friday night, a French farce called Don’t Dress For Dinner. It’s actually the opening night of the theatre company run by my lead actor Peter Hansen, in which he also starred in with five other actors.


I also got to see one of its rehearsals last week which was really fun to see. I had never been to a play rehearsal before and the fact that it’s a comedy is even more delightful to watch. Oh as if I hadn’t been busy enough w/ my film AND Kickstarter campaign, I also helped redesign his theatre website. (yep I need a vacation real bad!)

Saturday was a hot day, so after a scorching afternoon going to Art Crank in NE Minneapolis, we cooled off watching the new Spidey flick.

I have to admit I wasn’t all that enthused to see this so if it wasn’t for my hubby’s insistence, I probably would’ve waited for its VOD release. Fortunately it ends up being a pretty decent flick which is NOT an origin story, thank goodness!

It’s fun to see Peter Parker being a proper teenager and Tom Holland is perfectly believable in the role. Some of the banters between him and his BFF Ned (Jacob Batalon) seems too cutesy with all the ‘awesome’ which at times doesn’t ring true. But as the film progressed it didn’t bother me and they do have some fun memorable moments. Our young’un hero is far more eager to be a hero than in past interpretations but I’m glad actually gets to do something heroic and does it on his own account.

I hadn’t paid much attention to this film so I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael Keaton as the villain. He’s definitely one of the best villains in the plethora of Spidey movies I’ve seen over the years. My fave is still Doc Ock (Alfred Molina) from Sam Raimi’s Spider-man 2 and Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is right up there with him. I like villains who are more of a tragic character, not an all-out monster hellbent on destroying the world. I enjoyed watching Keaton as a cross between Batman and Birdman when he’s wearing the birdlike costume, but his character actually has some depth. There’s also a pretty bizarre father-daughter storyline here that I did not see coming.

The movie starts out pretty light, Peter’s fanboy-ing over Tony Stark also gets overdone, but the movie actually grows darker with a genuine sense of dread. I am however quite puzzled by the hype over Zendaya in this movie. Not because her acting wasn’t good but her character barely registers here to even make any impact. Yes I appreciate that she’s not just another love interest but I wish the slew of writers actually gave her something to do. The movie does hint that she perhaps will have a larger role in the inevitable sequels.

Despite me feeling blasé about this reboot, this movie ends up being pretty enjoyable. There are a couple of thrilling action sequences though the finale is still way too loud & bombastic. Casting-wise, Holland fits the role nicely and he seems to have fun doing it. There are fun moments of Peter poking fun at members of the Avengers which is in keeping with him being a 15-year-old kid. It was pretty fun seeing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and his chauffeur/personal assistant ‘Happy’ (Jon Favreau) as part of the story too. I’m not exactly clamoring to see more of Spidey movies though, but I suppose if they gotta make ’em at least they don’t suck.


The weekend is topped off w/ my first time doing a podcast! It was fun being a guest for an episode of The Film Pasture, hosted by my friend Vern from Vern’s Video Vortex with film blogger Kristen Lopez. Vern was kind enough to invite me to discuss our picks of Top 5 Female Filmmakers and let me promote my short film Hearts Want which I can proudly say has a strong woman of color in the lead and done by a mostly-female crew.

I will post the podcast here once it’s up. As you know I’m a big supporter of women filmmakers and having just written/produced my first film, naturally I have even more respect for those who’ve made it in the male-dominated film industry.


Well, did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen the newest Spider-man movie, what did you think?

Updates on Hearts Want short film & quick review on The Lost City of Z

Hello folks! Been a while since I wrote anything for the blog. Well actually the last post I wrote was on the eve of filming Hearts Want, my short film… I published it past midnight and my hubby just got done printing my cast/crew contracts that night, if you can believe that!

Well, suffice to say I hadn’t really got time to watch/blog about anything these days. I took only 2 days off work after filming, but I still had a ton of stuff to take care of that week… returning costumes, writing checks, SAG paperwork, etc. I knew that post-filming I’d have a bit of a postpartum depression as we’d been running on adrenaline so much during pre-prod and principal photography that my life felt so utterly boring afterwards, ahah. Going back to work was particularly tough… I have to say I have been disillusioned w/ my job and the place I’ve been working for over a decade, and I enjoyed being a writer/producer so much that I know I want to do more of it.

If you happen to be on Facebook, would you kindly give Hearts Want Film Page a LIKE please?


Some people say it’s hard to ‘recover’ from something bad, but it’s equally hard to recover from something truly amazing. It could be because it’s my ever first film that I’ve been working on from the start, but I really couldn’t ask for a better experience! Everything went without a hitch and we even finished early both days, which was incredible given that we barely had time for pre-prod at all. I enjoyed every minute of the whirlwind two-day shoot.

The place where we did Day 1 shoot and the first half of Day 2 is a local theater called Southern Theater, which was built in 1910 so it looked like a vintage theater in Europe. It’s absolutely perfect for the play-within-the-film that’s set in the 40s (hence the bomber jacket and retro headscarf). Thanks to my amazing art director Cheri Anderson who found eight of these fantastic columns from a theater company that matched the look of the space perfectly. The two vintage lamp posts completed the look.

First day was a relatively short 10-hour day, but the second day was a pretty grueling 14+ hours shoot with a company move (that is moving to another location mid-day), which means we had to pack up the stage set pieces before we moved. Kudos to my director Jason P. Schumacher for being such a capable captain of the ship. It certainly helped when he’s assembled a phenomenal crew to get things done.

We only had to shoot three major scenes the second day but they’re dialogue-heavy and quite emotional for the actors. I was practically grinning ear to ear the entire time I watched my two leads Peter Hansen and Sam Simmons in character, their chemistry is incredible. Let’s just say the scene in the dressing room is muy caliente [fan self]

So in case you’re wondering… right now my film is in post-production. I’ve got one of the 1TB hard drives with all the raw footage so it’s been fun watching all the takes and I’m diligently taking notes for editing purposes.

My goal is to get this film ready for Twin Cities Film Fest later in October… but I’m working on launching a crowd-funding campaign now, so stay tuned!


This weekend I actually did have time to see a movie on the big screen! My hubby and I helped our friend (and lead actress) Sam move to her new apartment, then we went to see The Lost City of Z.

This was actually the opening film of Minneapolis St Paul Film Fest (MSPIFF) two weeks ago but I wasn’t able to attend because of the shooting schedule. I’m glad I got to see it in theaters. I quite enjoyed it despite it being a rather long film and has some long dramatic moments. I think people expecting a full-blown adventure film a la Indiana Jones might be disappointed. It’s a rather reflective adventure drama focusing on the struggle of the protagonist, British explorer Col. Percival Fawcett with his obsession to find the lost city.

I thought Charlie Hunnam was terrific in the lead role. Glad Brad Pitt passed on the role though he still signed on as producer. Hunnam has the rugged look, presence and vulnerability that made me identify with his role and easily empathize with his character. Robert Pattinson didn’t really make a dent in this film though I appreciate him taking on more understated supporting roles (and barely recognizable under a full beard) despite being an A-lister after Twilight. Another two actors I’m impressed with are Sienna Miller and Tom Holland (the new Spidey) as Fawcett’s wife and son, respectively. Glad writer/director James Gray didn’t make Miller just another devoted wife, but she actually has quite an integral role here in an era where women barely had a place in the conversation.

Holland is quite a versatile young actor. He didn’t appear until past the halfway mark but he was memorable. I like the scenes between him and Hunnam who convincingly played his dad despite only being 15 years apart in age.

If you’re curious to check it out, I urge you to see this on the big screen. The visuals are pretty striking but it also has an engaging story. It pains me that this film bombed while the more-bombastic-but-unapologetically-silly Kong Skull Island is a hit! I didn’t bother to review that one but I would have given it a 2.5/5.

This film however, is equally riveting and heartfelt. It also has an inspiring message against bigotry and racial supremacy that is more timely than ever.


So that’s the scoop on my passion project folks. How was your weekend? Seen anything good?

TCFF Day 7 reviews: The Liability, Casual Encounters, How I Live Now

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Now that TCFF has wrapped, I’ll be posting some reviews from the last few days of the film fest, as well as which films won the TCFF Awards which was announced last night. Glad to see some of my personal favorites getting nominated. You can check out the list here.

Now here are some films from Day 7 that are worth checking out:

How I Live Now

by Ruth Maramis

I have not heard about this film until it was announced as a TCFF lineup. I was immediately drawn to it because of Saoirse Ronan who’s been excellent in everything I’ve seen her in so far. This time it’s no different. In this film adaptation of novel by Meg Rosoff, Ronan plays an angst-y American teenager Daisy, who reluctantly goes to spend her Summer vacation with her cousin in an English countryside. Once she’s there, the rural house is in complete mess as her four cousins, Isaac (Tom Holland), Piper (Harley Bird), Edmond “Eddie” (George MacKay) pretty much had to look after themselves as their mom is involved in a mysterious project, something about the ‘peace process,’ who’s quickly whisked to Geneva, never to be seen again.

What starts out as an idyllic vacation, complete with picnic, lake-swimming, and a blossoming teen romance between Daisy and Eddie, life is soon turned upside down for them as war suddenly broke out, seemingly out of nowhere. Whilst there are hints along the way that of what looks to be a World War III scenario, from news footage on TV, signs of military presence, etc., when nuke effect “snow” from a London nuclear attack falling on them, it still came as quite a surprise. As the country descend into a violent and chaotic military state, Daisy is given a chance to return to America, but yet she chooses to stay with Eddie.

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The last half of the film becomes a journey for survival story as Daisy and Piper flee a forced-labor camp through the woods. The pacing of the film drags at times, and I find the film’s relentlessly-allusive storyline a bit frustrating. I like a good mystery but somehow this film felt more elusive than truly suspenseful. I also feel like the chemistry between the characters a bit lacking. The romance is far from gripping and the pairing of Daisy and Piper also didn’t quite mesh well, though both actors did a good job. Thus I didn’t feel as emotionally-involved with the characters as I otherwise would.

I do think the premise is intriguing though, and there’s enough going for it here that kept me engaged. The tone is dark and pretty grim, especially the last third of the film, with some gruesome doomsday scenes that warrants its R rating. Just like she did in Hanna, Ronan pretty much carried the film here and she’s more than capable. She easily outshines everyone else in this film, though Harley Bird as Piper has some scene-stealing moments. The cinematography is gorgeous as well, giving us a stark contrast between the serene and lush pastoral beauty and the sinister apocalyptic views of a doomed future.

As far as young adult stories go though, this one is certainly far more compelling than other ‘supernaturally-themed’ offerings out there. I quite like the hopeful but not ‘too neat’ ending, though some might feel it’s a bit anti-climactic. It could’ve been a bit more compelling, especially coming from director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), but I’d say it’s worth a rent though if you’re a fan of the talents involved.

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Casual Encounters

by Adam Wells

Casual Encounters is an anthology film about people who meet other people online for a casual night of love. The movie shows five different people’s experience with a casual encounter and they do intertwine as some characters show up in multiple storylines. The film is really 5 short films and in some cases they have been shown separately in some cases but Casual Encounters has them shown altogether.

The movie has excellent performances all around, the actors and actresses in this film handle the maturity of the content of this nature. In particular the character of Eric who is the only one to appear in three storylines including his own, his character has many levels of depth to him as his life is a bit complicated. Eric is portrayed by Aaron Mathias (who was also the star of Things I Don’t Understand which premiered at TCFF last year), and he is definitely an actor to keep on your radar.

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The movie has many settings that take place at night, but despite that the cinematography is done very well, while also different color palettes for lighting in each story’s setting. As each story differs in its nature of intimacy and sexual orientation, the colors of the lighting seem to change, and that shows the producers and director really thought through the composition of the shots wanted the viewer to associate certain colors with certain interactions, as Eric’s story is the final one in the film and has multiple settings as opposed to the other stories that have one or two.

Overall, Casual Encounters is an excellent film and comes highly recommended due to its amazing performances, elaborate world it creates with intertwining storylines, and its content that is usually not shown in films. The film plays against the viewers expectations as it has romantic movie plots but they don’t play out as most romantic movie plots usually play out, which is always pleasant to see.
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The Liability

by Sarah Johnson

A movie with good plot twists that also wraps up all the loose ends by the time the credits roll? The Liability, the new crime tale directed by Craig Viveiros and written by John Wrathall, does just that. It stars Tim Roth as Roy, a world weary hit man who only wants to retire so he can attend his daughter’s wedding, and Jack O’Connell as Adam, the 19 year old stepson of Roy’s gangster boss Peter (Peter Mullan). When Adam wrecks Peter’s car he gives him a job of becoming Roy’s driver as a way to work off his debt. “It’s either that or the septic tank,” Peter says.
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Of course things don’t go according to plan. A bizarre string of events involve a girl, a hippie van and the true reason Adam was paired with Roy. Suffice it to say, when I heard a nearby audience member gasp at one of the plot twists, I knew the filmmakers had done their job. Casting Tim Roth in one of the starring roles was a good choice as his wry acting style is a good mix with the sexy edginess of the movie. (“I haven’t killed a woman since 1983,” he proclaims.)
The one thing I found slightly lacking was the chemistry between O’Connell and Roth- it would have been nice to see them play off each other more. Some might say the movie is a little too by-the-book in wrapping it up at the end. I appreciate movies that keep you guessing as well but is walking out of the theatre feeling like you understood everything so wrong?

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So that about wraps up our Day 7 reviews. Any thoughts about any of these films?