Twin Cities Film Fest’s 2018 OPENING NIGHT: Time For Ilhan Documentary & Green Book Reviews

What a day! What a night! It’s the ninth year I’m covering TCFF (yep that’s right, I’ve been with this amazing film fest since its inception) and they’ve done it again. They had not one but TWO opening night film and they’re both amazing! (scroll down to view my brief write-up of Time For Ilhan and Green Book below).

I had an early start this morning and was greeted by a beautiful blue sky in a crisp Autumn day (welcome back sunshine, we’ve missed you!!) I had a chance to hang out with Michael Driscoll, the filmmaker of the gorgeous b&w noir short film Two Black Coffees (which you can read all about it here). He’ll be here for the duration of the fest on his first visit to Minnesota! If you want to see his film, along w/ many other great shorts, be sure to get your tickets to the Thrilling, Tingling Tales on Thursday, 10/25 at 9:15pm.

Wish I still had enough energy to attend the Opening Night party… but it’s already almost 11pm by the time the Green Book screening + Q&A and I still have to do my blogging duties. Well, there’s still 10 more days left at TCFF, it certainly was off to a smashing start!!


TIME FOR ILHAN

“Time For Ilhan” is an eye-opening documentary that follows the 2016 Minnesota House of Representatives campaign of Ilhan Omar, a Somalian immigrant who sets out to unseat a 43-year incumbent and other challengers.

I love when a film title captures the essence of the film so perfectly, and Time For Ilhan is one of those films. Many of you know Ilhan Omar as the first Somali-American legislator elected to office in the United States and there are certainly many ‘firsts’ in regards to her life and career, and what she represents. In fact, one audience member asked her how it feels like to represent not just her Democratic party, but SO much larger than that… that is her Somali-American community, the Immigrant community, her race, Muslim women, and women in politics in a very much white-male-dominated world.

Interestingly though, at the time she was running in the DFL primary for the Minnesota House of Representative, she was running against a 43-year incumbent (Phyllis Kahn, who happens to be a Jewish-American) and a fellow Somali-American Mohamud Noor. Though we know the outcome already (she is now the DFL nominee for U. S. Representative), the film was still quite suspenseful as well as heart-wrenching in the way they depict a political race, especially involving the underdogs.

I appreciate and admire filmmaker Norah Shapiro‘s astute directorial sensibility in making an important film that’s also entertaining to watch. I love that aside from the political campaign, she took the time to show Ilhan’s family life… her playing with her three kids, having dinner with her family and interacting with her supportive Somali-American husband, Ahmed Hirsi. There’s more than just Ilhan the politician, but we see her as a well-rounded, complex, layered individual who has the courage and drive to fight for what she believes in. Additionally, the film also gives insights, especially for people like me who aren’t much into politics, just what goes into campaigning and how intricate that process is.

Naturally, given the nature of Ilhan Omar’s ethnic background and who she represents, this is quite an unprecedented political race that makes for a fascinating documentary. I have to give a shout out to DP Chris Newberry (who’s also the film’s producer) for the wonderful visuals showcasing the beautiful state of Minnesota.

What a treat it was for those attending the TCFF screening to see Ilhan Omar herself up on stage with director Norah Shapiro. She was as cordial and well-spoken as you see her on the media. As a woman of color and US immigrant myself, she certainly inspires me to be courageous and pursue my dream, no matter how seemingly-impossible that is.

Ilhan Omar & Norah Shapiro at TCFF Q&A after the screening

Check out the TCFF red carpet interview with Ilhan Omar:


GREEN BOOK

A working-class Italian-American bouncer becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.

I have to say that this film had me hooked right from the poster and the trailer. But when I first saw that the director is Peter Farrelly, I had to do a double take. I mean he’s known for his comedies like Dumb & Dumber, Something About Mary, etc. and I expected this to be a drama. Well, this is one of those films that play with your expectations… and Farrelly certainly succeeds in finding the perfect balance of comedy and drama in capturing a poignant and heart-warming true story.

The film is based on a screenplay written by Nick Vallelonga, who happens to be the son of Tony Lip, one of the two protagonists of the film. It’s a tale of unlikely friendship as they embark on a journey that changes their lives forever. I knew that they had a winner when they cast Viggo Mortensen (a Danish thespian who’s completely believable as an Italian) and the oh-so-regal Mahershala Ali as a Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley, a musical genius. The title refers to an actual book, a road-trip guide to services and places that’s open to Blacks during a time of pervasive racial discrimination. Without giving too much away, the film touches on the reason Shirley chose to do the tours in the Deep South in the 60s, when he could’ve easily chosen to stay relatively safe in the North. I’m not going to write the line here as it’s better for you to discover it for yourself when you watched it. It’s one of the moments I teared up in this film.

The racial injustices Shirley face is a deeply serious subject that’s maddening and heartbreaking, and the film doesn’t shy away from that. Yet there’s a lightness to the film that comes from the script AND the performances of the two actors. Some scenes, like the KFC scene in the car, is a riot. Yet the hilarity doesn’t undermine the gravity of the subject matter. There are many memorable moments where these two extremely-different people clash day in and day out. But much to their surprise, each of those moment actually brought them closer to each other. Each of them is a changed-man after the trip, and that transformation feels real and believable, not at all tacked-on.

It’s the kind of film that sparks conversations about race and economic disparity, even ‘class’ system if you will, without being too heavy-handed. One thing that touches me deeply is how the film depicts loneliness. As they say, it’s ‘lonely at the top’ but it’s even more lonely for those who don’t feel like they belong anywhere. Despite his amazing talents and accomplishments, and also because of it, Don Shirley never felt like he can fit in any racial group, and that’s harrowing to watch. It’s one thing to depict racial inequality by presenting facts, which is all fine and good, but it’s truly a moving experience when it’s told in such a personal level and see how hearts are being transformed by personal relationships.

Producer Jim Burke spoke at the Q&A afterwards and shed a light about some details about the film. One thing that caught my eye in the credits is that Octavia Spencer is listed as Executive Producer. Well, Burke said that she was asked to collaborate given that she grew up in the South during that era, in order to give an authentic depiction of the story. Burke also mentioned that Mahershala Ali gave a lot of input about the ending, which is definitely a memorable one.

Go see this movie when it comes out near you. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, sometimes both at the same time… but one thing for sure, you’ll come away feeling grateful you get to know a little bit about Don Shirley and Tony Lip, and their incredible journey together.


Check out the TCFF red carpet interview with producer Jim Burke:


Any thoughts about the two films I mentioned above? Let’s hear it!

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST announces a star-studded 2018 lineup!

TCFF announces a diverse and inspiring lineup of films for their 2018 festival, to be held October 17-27 at Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End with ICON•X. Coming off of a successful September Gala that honored Steve Zahn with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Rachel Mairose from Secondhand Hounds with the Changemaker Award, this year’s festival will officially open their ninth year with Peter Farrelly’s Green Book (November 21, Participant Media and DreamWorks Pictures).

When Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer from an Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx, is hired to drive Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a world-class Black pianist, on a concert tour from Manhattan to the Deep South, they must rely on “The Green Book” to guide them to the few establishments that were then safe for African-Americans. Confronted with racism, danger—as well as unexpected humanity and humor—they are forced to set aside differences to survive and thrive on the journey of a lifetime.

Green Book recently won the Toronto International Film Festival’s coveted People’s Choice Award this past week! Producer Jim Burke, Academy Award nominee for “The Descendants,” will be attending.

Opening night festivities will also include a screening of Time for Ilhan, a documentary about State Representative and Federal House candidate, Ilhan Omar, who will be in attendance along with director Norah Shapiro and cinematographer Chris Newberry.

The Centerpiece Highlight on Friday, October 19 is the Newport Beach Film Festival hit comedy When Jeff Tried to Save the World starring Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite). Heder and director Kendall Goldberg will be in attendance. United Skates, a documentary about roller skating and a community’s battle to save an underground subculture will close out the festival on October 27, with producer and Minnesota native Tiffany Fisher-Love in attendance.

Other visiting guests this year include David Arquette and Tom Arnold with the U.S. premiere of Saving Flora, the story of a 14-year-old girl who kidnaps an elephant from a circus to take it to a nature reserve, screening on October 22. Chef Andrew Zimmern will also be in attendance on Thursday, October 25 for the Midwest premiere of Chef Flynn, a documentary about a ten-year-old who transformed his living room into a supper club and achieved sudden fame.

TCFF is also thrilled to feature Widows (20th Century Fox) a modern-day thriller from Steve McQueen starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Melissa McCarthy, Boy Erased (Focus Features) starring Joel Edgerton and Nicole Kidman and The Favourite (Fox Searchlight Pictures) starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.

In addition to their regular programming this year, TCFF is pleased to collaborate with the Jewish Film Festival and the Northstar Science Film Festival, showing a slate of thought provoking films while launching a brand new initiative, TCFF Tech. TCFF Tech is a one-of-a-kind 3-day event spotlighting the impact of technology on social issues, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

I’ll post the complete schedule later with some of my most-anticipated selections!

Tickets are on-sale this weekend for TCFF Members and will be open to the public next week beginning Friday, September 28th, 2018. Ticket prices are $12 for General Admission & $20 for Gala Tickets.

Festival Passes can also be purchased as follows: Silver Pass – $50 (5 pack of non-Gala tickets); Gold Pass – $80 (10 pack of non-Gala tickets); Platinum Pass – $120 (12 pack of non-Gala tickets + 2 Gala tickets); Gala Pass – $100 (6 tickets to any Gala Film); and the All Access Pass – $500 (Guaranteed seat in premiere row at ANY screening +more!).


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit the newly-redesigned twincitiesfilmfest.org

 


Oh and as if great films aren’t enough for the 11-day festivities, check out the amazing lineup of FREE EDUCATIONAL events!!


So yeah, TCFF 2018 can’t come soon enough!

FlixChatter Review: Captain Fantastic (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Viewing Roundup + The Two Faces of January (2014) review

Well last Friday was the first weekend of Spring but Winter’s still not done with us yet as it was the Winter Wonderland again Sunday night. I didn’t think the snow was going to stick but here’s what my neighborhood looked like as I left work this morning! I do love those snow-covered branches!

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Skipped the cinema again this weekend, but rented a few things from Netflix: Shaft (the 2000 version with Samuel L. Jackson – review upcoming) and The Two Faces of January. Apparently The Phantom of the Opera (2004) w/ Gerry Butler and Emmy Rossum is now on Netflix streaming so of course I had to rewatch that again. In fact, I also watched half of the 2006 BBC Jane Eyre w/ my dahling Toby Stephens. Wintry night in is meant for viewing indulgences 😉

RoyalDeceitOh, on Thursday night also rented what’s supposed to be a Danish re-telling of Hamlet called Royal Deceit. I couldn’t believe how horrible it was, it’s simply ghastly in terms of direction, script (if you can even call it that), production design, as well as acting. I only saw it because of the stellar cast: Gabriel Byrne, Christian Bale, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Tom Wilkinson AND a young Any Serkis (this was apparently his film movie), all of them were absolutely wasted in one cringe-worthy scene after another. I honestly thought the cast might’ve lost a bet or something to star in this movie, what a criminal waste of talents! If I were to rate it, it’d get a big fat ZERO reel as there is nothing redeemable about it.

Anyway, here’s my review of …

 The Two Faces of January

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A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

This film seems to have the making of a great psycho thriller, given that it’s from the writer of great mystery thrillers The Talented Mr Ripley Strangers on a Train. I haven’t read Patricia Highsmith‘s novel, but I’d think the book might’ve been more exciting. It has its moments but it suffers from a rather sedate beginning and sluggish second act before it finally picks up in its third act.

I haven’t seen Viggo Mortensen in anything new in a while so it’s always nice seeing him here, playing an older, elegant businessman Chester Macfarland traveling with his young wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst). Mortensen is a solid actor and he does a great job here, but I find myself drawn to the tour guide/con-artist Rydal (Oscar Isaac) with his brooding good looks and dark, enigmatic eyes. There’s a palpable sexual chemistry between Isaac and Dunst, and Isaac also has some great dramatic scenes with Mortensen, especially towards the end.

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The breathtaking cinematography in Athens and Crete is practically a character in itself and it serves as a fine distraction during some of the film’s slower parts. The finale’s foot-chase scene in Istanbul was stylishly shot and that’s definitely the most exciting part of the entire film. Iranian director Hossein Amini made this film with a Hithcockian flair to it, and the use of light is quite dramatic, especially in the night time scene in a Greek ruin. Apparently this is Amini’s feature film debut so that might explain the uneven tone, but I think he did a pretty good job for a first timer and I’m curious what he’d do next.

I think the strength of the film lies in Mortensen and Isaac, and the film’s main conflict is ultimately between these two. Mortensen convincingly displayed the jealousy and paranoia that constantly haunted Chester, whilst Isaac’s character couldn’t seem to shake his lust for Colette that sucked him deeper and deeper into this dangerous predicament. I’ve been a fan of Isaac for some time and I sure hope he’d get more leading roles as he’s got such an effortless screen magnetism.

Given the intriguing plot and the cast, this could’ve been a really compelling and riveting noir thriller. As it is now, the film dragged in parts and felt longer than its 96-minute running time. It’s also hard to care about the unlikable characters, even if there’s a hint of redemption in the end. But overall I still think it was well-worth renting, especially if you’re a fan of Highsmith and Hitchcock and/or any of the cast.

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So did you see anything good this weekend? If you’ve seen The Two Faces of January, I’d love to hear what you think!

Weekend Viewing Roundup & 28 Days (2000) mini review

Happy Sunday everyone! It finally felt like Spring is actually around the corner here in my neck of the woods. The good news is we can forgo the long johns and parka, but we now have to put up with dirty cars as the roads and slushy roads from melting mountains of snow.

Well, no cinema trip this weekend but it’s been a great week as a film fan as I got to see Divergent two weeks early and also got to interview author Veronica Roth and cast member Ansel Elgort (who’d be starring with Shailene Woodley again in the upcoming drama The Fault in our Stars). I’m still transcribing the Q&A so stay tuned for it next week!

Here’s what I saw this weekend:

28 Days (2000)

A big-city newspaper columnist is forced to enter a drug and alcohol rehab center after ruining her sister’s wedding and crashing a stolen limousine.

I’m not exactly sure why we rented this movie but if you haven’t seen this yet and was curious to see Viggo Mortensen here a year before he became Aragorn, note that the actor’s billing on IMDb is misleading as his character’s screen time is so small it’s more of a cameo! Dominic West had more screen time than him as the obnoxious & drunk boyfriend of Sandra Bullock‘s character. Now I like Sandy and that’s one of the reasons I saw this, but even she couldn’t save the movie.

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I felt like the story could’ve been told so much better and have more depth to make it memorable. I’d say you’d like to see a movie about characters in a mental institution, I think you’d be better off renting Girl, Interrupted. I think making this subject matter and make it a comedy seems ill-advised. It’s not THAT funny to begin with and the serious moments just didn’t make any real impact. I think the one saving grace is perhaps Alan Tudyk as a gay German rehab patient. I wish he had more screen time as he’s hilarious and the movie seems to pick up every time he appears. Oh, there’s also Steve Buscemi who’s always watchable, but it’s a bit odd to see him playing it completely straight as the former-alcoholic-turned-counselor, it kind of seems like a missed opportunity, ahah. Oh, as for Mortensen, well he is practically wasted as a supposedly famous baseball player who has a knack for watching soap operas. Yes it sounds funny but it’s really not that hilarious as it’s being played in the movie as his character didn’t even appear in the soap re-enactment scene towards the end.

I can’t say I recommend this one unless you’re a die hard Sandra Bullock fan. But I wish I had rewatched While You’re Sleeping instead.

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2 out of 5 reels


I also re-watched a couple of old favorites this weekend …

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I LOVE this romance drama by Mexican director Alfonso Arau. Yes Keanu Reeves seemed an unlikely romantic lead but I think he’s lovely in this movie and has a nice chemistry with Italian/Spanish actress Aitana Sánchez Gijón. I’ve always admired the gorgeous cinematography, it turns out it was the work of recent Oscar winner Emmanuel Lubezki! I still love this movie, it’s one of my fave unconventionally-romantic movies!

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Daniel Craig‘s fantastic intro to the Bond franchise has become one of my all time favorites. It’s still the one to beat out of the three he’s done so far IMO. The action, the scenery and the music are all superb, plus it features my fave Bond girl Vesper Lynd. I’d rather see Eva Green here than in the 300 sequel, and based on Ted’s review, good thing I skipped the movie.

… and a new-to-me Wes Anderson movie released seven years ago:

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I’ve been curious to see this one for some time, but after seeing Keith’s review on Friday I thought I’d rent it this weekend. As I was writing my review of Grand Budapest Hotel, it gives more perspective into Wes Anderson’s filmography. Stay tuned for my review of both of his movies later this week!


So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on the movies I mentioned above?

Hollywood Movie Draft Pitch III: Untitled Sci-Fi by Duncan Jones

As part Anomalous Material’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft blog event, I posted my dream cast last week. Now check out the movie pitch below… tentatively titled …

The Renovaré Project

(Renovaré is Latin for “to renew” or “to restore”)

Photo by thmc | deviantart.com

LOGLINE:

In the year of 3020, a fraction of the earth population are now living temporarily in a distant planet. A young military protégé on a mission back to earth discovers that everything he knows about the apocalyptic event is not what they seem.

BACKGROUND:

This untitled sci-fi drama is a mix of NBC’s The Event and the ‘V’ miniseries with elements of Equilibrium thrown in. It’s a story of overcoming unspeakable deception and the courage to fight against insurmountable odds in the name of humanity and love. Because of the nature of the storyline, the film will have more of an open-ended conclusion. I envision this to be a two-part or trilogy series.

It’s a post-apocalyptic setting… most of the world as we know it has been destroyed by a catastrophic meteor shower two years prior. Humanity is facing extinction on earth as only a select few of surviving humans are now living temporarily in a distant planet called Bhumi, a dystopian society that are far more structured and sterile-looking environment where diseases are rare and conflicts are minimized as the citizens have been “programmed” to obey and please authorities without question nor protest.

The Bhumi authorities are in fact an alien colony called the Luciens who are responsible for the meteor attacks. They are a highly-intelligent and technologically-advanced creatures who have shape-shifting abilities. They live off of minerals similar to what exists at the earth core, and their government is totalitarian in nature. They’re a slow-breeding race, so their population only numbering in the hundred of thousands. On top of that, the shrinking mineral resources on their planet slow down their reproduction ability even more.

A new leader in their society, who goes by the name Damien, wants to solve that problem, as well as create a perfect world of hybrid race of Luciens-humans who’d submit to him. The Luciens can’t simply invade earth because the high air pollution in the earth atmosphere endanger their health in much bigger impact than they do humans. Therefore, instead of a full-on invasion, the Luciens think it’s more effective to do it strategically and in phases. They’d obliterate most of the earth population (using their own bombs that are made to look like meteor attacks), sparing only those they deem intelligent enough to match their kind. These men and women are the chosen ones who were ‘rescued’ and trained months before the catastrophe happened, as they possess the skill set needed for the Renovaré project. The purpose of that is two-fold: One, to help rebuild earth once the effect of the meteor shower have subsided; and two, to be mated with their own kind to start the ‘perfect’ breed. The Luciens’ shape-shifting power enable them to blend in with humans and they use their supreme intelligence to gradually brainwash various earth leaders into believing meteor attacks are imminent and the only way to save what’s left of humanity is to create a temporary living quarter in a different planet.

The Luciens’ grand vision of the new earth

All the human survivors now living in Bhumi have been brainwashed to think that Renovaré‘s main mission is to reset the world as we know it to improve or make it better. The film’s protagonist, Joshua Prescott, has been made leader of one of the ELITE team of the Renovaré Project because of his intelligence and military prowess. The team created by Bhumi’s new government to clean up and rebuild a new, better environment on earth. Bhumi is a relatively-small planet that will not big enough to accommodate Bhumi’s targeted population of the hybrid race, but they have to make sure the climate is ready for them to move in. It’s whilst on a mission back to earth that Joshua slowly learns the truth about what he’s been conditioned to believe…  and suddenly he’s faced with a darker reality that is even more bleak than he’s ever thought or imagined.

DIRECTOR:

Duncan Jones
The 40-year-old British director may be a relative unknown to most moviegoers, but in just the past 2 years, he’s directed two critically-acclaimed movies. His directing debut Moon won Best British Independent Film in 2009. I feel that he’s got the chops to create an emotionally-engaging sci-fi flick that is heavy on the plot and character-development and less about the bombastic action sequences. I also think he can handle the romantic aspect of the story, based on what I’ve seen in Source Code.

CAST OF CHARACTERS:


Chris Hemsworth is Joshua Prescott, the film’s 31-year-old protagonist. Prescott is an aerospace engineer who’s also a pilot, tall and handsome in a grizzled kind of way, and a charismatic leader. He had just proposed to his long-time girlfriend Lena Bouvier when he’s recruited by the Luciens for the Renovaré project.


Viggo Mortensen is Bhumi’s Commander in Chief Damien and the film’s main villain. He’s the leader of the alien beings who are highly-intelligent and has shape-shifting abilities. Damien has the appearance of a man in his late 40s, charismatic with a quiet grace but is relentlessly ambitious to create a perfect ‘breed’ between his own kind and the ‘best’ of the human race.


Emily Blunt is Lena Bouvier, Joshua’s fiancée who survives the meteor strike and is a member of the remaining resistance group who knows about the Luciens and that they are behind the meteor attack. She is a nurse who’s in the middle of a night shift when the attack happens, but fortunately her father gets to her in the nick of time to bring her to safety.


Hugo Weaving plays Lena’s father, Léon Bouvier, a scientist who has been skeptical about the real cause of the meteor attack. Deeply distrustful of the government that grows increasingly strange in the months leading to the catastrophe, he builds a secretive underground scientific chamber for his research as well as hiding place. When Lena’s mother is killed in the attack, he grows even more vigorous in his quest to uncover the truth.


Romola Garai plays Saffron, the Lucien girl chosen by Damien as Joshua’s mate in Bhumi. She is one of the few female members of Damien’s ultra-secretive science program and is fiercely loyal to him and his cause. She’s been instrumental in the brainwashing process of Joshua and his team.


James Purefoy is Seth Jones, the leader of the earth’s resistance group in Europe. He lives in the same Scottish castle ruin where Lena and the remaining earth survivors dwell in. He’s a British air-force pilot whose family is killed during the meteor attack and shares Léon’s conspiracy theory of what happens on earth. He has feelings for Lena and after two years being heartbroken about Joshua, she finally opens up to him… that is until Joshua suddenly reappears.


Idris Elba plays Andrew Cudjoe, a former executive of a Global Natural Resources Corporation based in London. Because of the company’s main focus in mining, processing, and energy operations, the Luciens have surveyed his company for information even a year before the meteor attack. Andrew is Vivien’s husband, but they were separated when she got recruited by the Luciens. He’s now become Seth’s right hand man in the resistance.


Thandie Newton plays a sculpture artist Vivien, whose beauty catches Damien’s eye. She has been Damien’s lover in the past two years though like Joshua, she too has been haunted by dreams of a man she doesn’t remember. She has become attached to Damien but somehow can’t shake the feeling that there is something strange about life in Bhumi and that Damien might be keeping something from her.


Sir Sean Connery plays an ailing Protestant pastor Charles Wilby, whose son is also recruited by the Luciens. Even though he’s injured in the meteor attack, he’s been ministering the group of people to remain hopeful of a better reality despite the circumstances. He dies shortly after Joshua tells him that he’s met his son who’s one of the engineer in Bhumi’s central station.


ADDITIONAL CAST:
Jamie Bamber – Michael, Charles Wilby’s only son
Sean Bean – A Lucien general, Damien’s right hand man
David Bowie – Cameo as a Lucien cleric


SYNOPSIS:

Two years after the meteor strike, a dozen group consisting of about 24 people are sent to survey various areas of earth. They’re tasked to make sure earth is ‘ready’ to be rebuilt and report back to Bhumi’s authorities. All the human survivors now living in Bhumi have been brainwashed to think that Renovaré’s main mission is to ‘reset’ the world as we know it to improve or make it better.

Joshua Prescott is the leader of Faction 316 consisting of eight men to survey the area of formerly the UK, and set up their station in a Scottish moor. In their sixth day, they come across a group of survivors living in the basement of a castle ruin. They survive on canned foods and water they’ve managed to collect just before the meteor strike. Prescott and his team have orders from the Renovaré general to execute survivors because of threat of meteoric ‘poison’ that will potentially contaminate the area and endanger the lives of the survivors who’d later occupy the space. Prescott normally have no problem obeying orders, as he believes that sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. But when he meets Lena, a beautiful woman who’s rumpled and scrawny given the circumstances, it’s as if he’s seeing the woman in his dreams, so he’s unable to kill her and her friends. He orders his team not to harm the group.

Apocalyptic depiction of a future London by German artist Marco Bauriedel

It turns out there are imperfections in the Luciens’ memory erase program. On some individuals, the procedure has ‘leaks’ in that the subject will recall bits and pieces of their past in the form of dreams. In the last few months leading up to the mission, Joshua has been dreaming more frequently of Lena, but he has no idea who she is. The fact is, Joshua and Lena had gotten engaged just months before he’s recruited by the Luciens and had his memory wiped out. In Bhumi, Joshua has been involved with another woman, Saffron, a Lucien chosen by Damien specifically for him, yet he can’t help feeling drawn to Lena. Joshua doesn’t remember Léon even though he was pretty close with Lena’s father prior to being recruited. This convinces Léon even more that something has been done to these human recruits that causes them to lose their memory.

Seth sees Joshua as a personal rival as well as a threat to his group. The next day, he and a few of his loyal men launch an attack against Joshua, which results in several of Seth’s group getting killed in the process. Léon begs Seth for cease fire and tells him that that he believes Joshua is the key to knowing the truth about what really happened. Joshua is the only one who can provide proof of the Luciens’ existence, besides, the resistance is no match to the much more well-equipped Renovaré team. Seth reluctantly agrees.

Meanwhile, Joshua’s dreams of Lena are getting more intense ever since he came back to earth, to the point that he would wake up weeping uncontrollably. Frantically, he goes back to see Lena and Léon and find them in the middle of a praying session with Charles, whose condition is getting worsened because of the injury he sustained during the meteor attack. Yet his eyes are still full of hope as he reaches for Joshua’s hands to calm him down. He tells him about his son Michael who’s about the same age as Joshua and proceeds to show him a torn picture of him that Charles carries with him at all times. Joshua recognizes Michael as one of the engineers working at Bhumi’s central station and when he informs Charles this, the ailing 75-year-old makes Joshua promise that he’d make things right and help the survivors find the truth. The next day, Charles dies.

One of the Renovare’s team’s earth-bound stations

Joshua now feels torn between his allegiance to Damien and a life he’s grown accustomed to in Bhumi, and his strong feelings and deep empathy for Lena and the resistance group. Despite what he’s learned on earth, he still can’t fathom that Bhumi is ruled by an alien race as they look and behave just like humans. A week later, right before he makes a quick trip to Bhumi to report to Damien, Andrew finds Joshua behind Seth’s back and tells him about a strange visit he encountered in his office just weeks before the meteor attack and how his guests were very interested about the iron ore-grade commercial mining operations in various parts of the world. He doesn’t know what it all means, but figures that it might provide a clue to the origins of the Luciens. Joshua notices a tattoo of a woman’s face on Andrew’s arm, she is the splitting image Damien’s lover but he refrains from saying anything.

Back in Bhumi, Joshua and Saffron are invited to dinner by Damien at his compound. Damien is very fond of Joshua and tells him of his grand vision for earth. Joshua does his best to pretend everything is ok, but every time he looks at Vivien, he can’t help wondering her connection with Andrew. He also feels incredibly uneasy to share a room with Saffron because of his feelings for Lena, and refuses to sleep with her. In the middle of the night, he leaves his room to get some air in a secluded lake. He finds Vivien there and Joshua uses the opportunity to ask her about Andrew. Sure enough, Joshua’s description of Andrew fits the picture of the man in her dreams. Joshua tells Vivien what he learns from earth and Vivien breaks down in tears and Joshua consoles her in his embrace, telling her to make sure to keep this a secret for now. At this point, Saffron sees the two of them and thinks they’re having an affair.

The next day, Saffron confronts Joshua and threatens to tell Damien about the affair. Joshua denies it but Saffron refuses to believe him, and in a moment of panic, he lunges at her and accidentally knocks her unconscious. That night, he drugs Saffron and takes her to earth to be examined by Léon. Indeed he finds an alien DNA in Saffron, thus proving his theory. Joshua goes berserk realizing he’s been utterly betrayed and lied for the past three years, and immediately wants to return to Bhumi to kill Damien. But Lena stops him, telling him that being brash about this might actually cost them dearly. Damien is so powerful that he not only would kill Joshua but could also wipe out the surviving earth population. Right now, the human population controlled by the Luciens in Bhumi outnumbered the survivors, so the only way to fight against the alien colony is by setting the humans free of the Luciens’ ‘spell.’

Joshua realizes there is not a lot of time before Damien finds out about Saffron and his team members to grow suspicious of his activities on earth. It turns out there is a mole on his team who saw Joshua sneaks Saffron to earth. He alerts Damien immediately unbeknownst to Joshua who’s on the way back to Bhumi. Damien is furious and in his wrath, he trashes Joshua’s compound. Vivien tries to provide an alibi for Joshua but Damien accuses her for conspiring against him and in his rage, he chokes her to death.

City Chase by Tiger 1313

Damien orders his subordinates to capture Joshua who’s still en route to Bhumi. Joshua notices there are three military planes trailing him, and an intense air chase ensues. Joshua’s plane is hit but he manages to land about twenty miles from his earthbound station right in the middle of a thunderstorm. But by now he can’t go back there because members of his Faction are loyal to Damien. He has no way of contacting Léon to run away, so he must kill his former team mates because they know the location to the resistance group’s hiding place. He gets into a shootout with members of his Faction, which leads into a chase across the hilly Scottish moor. Joshua is the best-trained shooters in Bhumi, so he manages to kill them all but he does get shot in the left shoulder. Seth ends up finding him unconscious just a mile outside of the compound and brings him inside. When Joshua wakes up the next day, Lena has treated his wound and tells him Seth rescued him. She tells Joshua she was terrified of losing him again. Though he still doesn’t remember her, he falls for her all over again and they share a kiss.

Léon is ecstatic that his future son-in-law has returned and he tells the group a new hope has arrived. The resistance group welcomes Joshua with open arms, and even Andrew who’s been Seth’s best friend, proclaims that he could be the group’s new leader. Joshua suddenly realizes Seth isn’t amongst the crowd. Joshua searches for Seth to thank him for saving his life, but finds neither he nor Saffron are in the compound.

EPILOGUE

Joshua and Lena marry in a small ceremony. There is a new hope for the resistance group now that Joshua is on their side. But it’s no time for celebration as they have to move to a different hiding place in case the Luciens find out their current whereabouts. There’s also a whole new uncertainties concerning Seth and Saffron.

© 2011 FlixChatter.net – All rights reserved.


What do you think, folks? Would you be interested to see a sci-fi movie like this one? If you have any ideas/suggestions about the plot or title, please let me know.

Hollywood Fantasy Draft Pitch III: My sci-fi movie’s dream cast

My pal Castor has created quite an addiction with his annual Hollywood Fantasy Draft event. Every year, we movie bloggers get to indulge in our fantasy of creating our own movies with our favorite actors. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, chances are you’ve read my first movie pitch Hearts Want, a romantic thriller starring Timothy Dalton, Helen Mirren and James McAvoy; and the second one which I adapted from a novel of the same name, Last Voyage of the Valentina starring Rufus Sewell, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron. Yep, I have drafted the leads of X-Men: First Class previously, now you see why I’m super excited for that movie 😀

Starbuck & Apollo in BSG

Well, this time I’m going back to creating an original story like I did with Hearts Want, I’m not going to reveal the story yet except to say that it’ll be a sci-fi set in a post-apocalyptic world of the future. Yes, there’ll be droids and spaceships, etc. but at the heart of it will be a love story. I’m a romantic at heart, don’t cha know, besides, a lot of sci-fi movies I like (i.e. Blade Runner) are actually quite romantic. I also adore Battlestar Galactica series — the contemporary one, not the original — and there are plenty of intertwined romances in that one, and plenty of um, pent-up passion that rival any soap opera. The scorching chemistry between Katie Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber as the star-crossed lovers Starbuck and Apollo is one of the main highlights of the sci-fi series.

Anyway, as I mentioned in my weekend roundup post, I spent hours a couple of weekends ago bidding for the major cast for my movie. I’m happy to say that I get most of the actors I wanted, with the exception of Carey Mulligan who’s my first choice as the female lead, but Castor snatched her! But it’s ok, I actually have another replacement who’s actually one of my favorite actresses and she’s on my list of top five noteworthy young actresses!

So without further ado, let me present you …

My dream cast:


My director pick is Duncan Jones. Originally I went with Matthew Vaughn but I figure he might be too busy (and too expensive) after the success of X-Men: First Class. I feel that Jones might be a better fit for my story having just seen Source Code and hearing all the great things about sci-fi drama Moon. He’s only done two feature films so far but both are very well-received by critics and audiences alike. I just realize that all three of the directors I’ve drafted so far are Brits! And guess what, I just realized Jones is David Bowie’s son, so you can count on having Mr. Bowie to have a brief cameo in my movie 😀

Viggo Mortensen is the most expensive cast I bid for, but he should be worth the money. I need someone of his acting caliber and popularity for my movie. Mortensen is a fine actor with the kind of screen intensity and emotional depth. He also has this quiet grace about him that is unpredictable. Those who’ve seen him in History of Violence and Eastern Promises know he can be quite menacing as well, which is perfect for the role I have for him. He’s also never done a full-blown sci-fi movie, yet.

I hadn’t planned for a Lord of the Rings reunion here, it sort of just worked out that way. Hugo Weaving has always been an actor I admired, he’s my top ten favorite Aussies and his masked performance in V for Vendetta is utterly impressive. He’s also amazing in the little-seen Aussie indie Little Fish where he played a junkie, and this role would require more of that raw performance rather than his cool, bad-ass rendition of Agent Smith in The Matrix.

For the female lead and the protagonist’s love interest, I need someone who is beautiful but with an earthly quality as well as intelligence. I’ve seen Emily Blunt in several films, and she always impresses me. I especially like her performance in Young Victoria so for sure she can handle emotionally-complex roles.

For the movie’s protagonist, I wanted someone who’s young and can handle the fight sequences believably. After seeing Chris Hemsworth in Star Trek and THOR (twice!) within one month, I’m convinced he’s the right man for the job. He’s definitely got a strong screen presence, as well as being very easy on the eyes without looking like a frivolous male model. I also wanted someone who’s a natural leader with the credibility to lead a big group of people to fight for the cause he believes in. In the two films I saw him, he could also pull off the romantic scenes which makes him a compelling ‘romeo’ on top of being a bad-ass fighter.

I’ve been a fan of James Purefoy for quite some time. He seems to be somewhat typecast in period action pieces like Iron Clad and Solomon Kane, perhaps because of his astounding turn as Marc Antony in HBO’s ROME. But I know this gorgeous and soulful Brit is capable for more! I need a strong male character who’s powerful enough to go against the grain, but also one with the good sense to choose where to place his allegiance.

The fact that Romola Garai is not a household name is beyond me. The 29-year-old Brit is not only drop-dead gorgeous but is massively talented to boot. You’ve likely seen her in Atonement as the adult version of Briony (who’s played by Saiorse Ronan as a kid). People talk about Ronan and Vanessa Redgrave (who plays the older version of the same character) a lot but Garai is equally compelling as both of them in that role. She is also great in Amazing Grace and in the BBC miniseries Daniel Deronda. I don’t believe she’s done a sci-fi flick yet, so she’ll be playing a role she’s never done before in this movie.

Ever since I saw Idris Elba in Rocknrolla as Gerry Butler’s BFF, I immediately notice the magnetic quality about the tall, London-born actor. He’s also great as Hemdahl in THOR as someone who’s revered but loyal and compassionate. Elba has a natural swagger about him but he also has a comedic side that’d work well as comic relief in my movie.

I first notice Thandie Newton in Mission: Impossible II as Tom Cruise’s love interest. She has kind of an otherworldly look about her — beautiful, mysterious but also can appear vulnerable. She’ll play Viggo’s lover who later has a change of heart towards the end of the film.

Now, as you know I like to cast a seasoned actor in my movies 😀 This time we have another James Bond actor who’s reportedly already retired, but I hope that Sir Sean Connery would agree to do a small but important cameo in this movie. Not only will we’ll give him a hefty paycheck for a mere few days of work, but the filming location will be in the Scottish Highlands which should appeal to him on a personal level.

Possible Additional Cast:

  • Karl Urban
  • David Bowie

Well, what do you think of my picks? Would you be interested to see a movie with this kind of cast?