TCFF 2017 Day 3 – ‘Hearts Want’ first screening in the ‘Ties That Bind Us’ short block and ‘A Gray State’ documentary

Day 3 of the Twin Cities Film Fest is actually quite a momentous one for me… If you know me well or have been following my blog and/or Facebook you might’ve guessed why.

I took the day off Friday because I knew it’s be quite an emotional day for me, showing my artistic baby, my passion project I’ve been working on the past year to the public for the first time. We had a private screening to the cast/crew and our close friends, but to actually seen it on the big screen in an actual theater is another thing entirely.

The moment the first scene came on screen, accompanied by the score… I went a bit verklempt, naturally. There weren’t many people in the theatre, which is typical for an early afternoon screening, but I’m so grateful to my friends, coworkers and even fellow bloggers who did come out and saw it… you know who you are, your support means a lot to me guys!

Hearts Want’s leading man Peter Christian Hansen attended the Friday screening

The Ties That Bind Us short block itself is chock full of wonderful relationship-themed films. Kudos to our short programmer Josh Dahlman and Angela Andrist for the awesome film selections! Of course I’m biased as to which is my favorite (hey you’re always going to think your baby is the cutest, right?) but I was truly impressed with all the films within this block: All That Was Broken, Head Above Water, Hearts Want, Heath Takes a Trip, Deadbeat, Resolutions, and Sundogs.

I really love Heath Takes a Trip, which is about a famous writer who suffers a breakdown and goes on a road trip with a stranger. It grabbed me right from the get go (which is quite a feat since it played right after my own film). It was emotional, funny, beautifully-shot, with a dreamy-like quality that has its own twist. It reminds me a bit of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs at times perhaps because of the corn fields, but also because it made you think one thing but it turns out to be another. I love Arch Harmon in the lead, as well as Ted James (who’s also the writer/director) as the rather whimsical stranger.

Resolutions is an intriguing, brutally-honest slice-of-life story of two couples that takes place over one New Year’s eve. It starts out like a low key celebration but as the evening progresses, something is revealed that turns things upside down for one of the four characters. It’s a simple setup that packs an emotional punch with the right amount of smolder and tension. The acting is brilliant, especially Nadine Malouf as Frankie. It’s got a female director, Tamara Fisch, who I hope will continue to make more films in the future!


Honestly, I don’t think I could really properly review a film such as A Gray State. I didn’t know much about the events surrounding the death of David Crowley, an Iraq vet who’s a charismatic aspiring filmmaker. I was going to read this New Yorker article by Alec Wilkinson before we see this documentary, but I decided I’ll read it after. A few people sitting near me know the subject of the film so naturally it’s so emotional watching the film as I could hear sniffles all around. Since the filmmaker was based in Minnesota, I’ve seen some of the actors who appeared in the trailer of the feature film he wanted to make, called Gray State. In fact I took a photo with the main actor in that trailer, Danny August Mason, when his short film Windage played at TCFF a few years back.

I went into the film pretty much blind, and the way filmmaker Erik Nelson set up the film, he played up the conspiracy theory aspect. I think it’s best that you find that out for yourself why that is, which is rather obvious given the subject matter of making a film called Gray State. The film is set in a dystopian near-future where civil liberties are trampled by an unrestrained federal government.

Erik Nelson is no stranger to doing a film about a grim subject matter, as he directed Grizzly Man. The film’s executive produced by Werner Herzog whom he frequently collaborated with. At the Q&A, Erik revealed that he combed through Crowley’s archive of 13,000 photographs, hundreds of hours of home video, and exhaustive behind-the-scenes footage of David’s work in progress. It’s a heart-wrenching look at what looks like an ordinary family tackling an extraordinary project… but something along the way, something went horribly wrong. What actually happened and what people want to believe is at the core of the film and the lines between them are inherently blurry. It’s pretty riveting, unsettling and emotional film, one that will linger for a long time after you saw it.

Q&A with Erik Nelson – conducted by TCFF managing director Bill Cooper

Fun at Industry Night!

It was a warm Autumn night with temps in the 70s. Great to catch up with friends and some visiting filmmakers during TCFF’s Industry Night.

Stay tuned for my recap of a jam-packed Day 4 starting with two insightful film panels and two features, Beauty Mark and Cold November, back to back.


What’s in store for Day 5


So, stay tuned to more daily TCFF coverage!


Five for the Fifth: JULY 2015 Edition

FiveForFifth_July4th2015

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Well, since this is Fourth of July weekend, a lot of my fellow Americans are celebrating all kinds of festivities, be that a 4th of July parade, barbecue, or fireworks at the park.

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But for some of us, it likely include getting together with friends and watch old favorites that celebrate the holiday, i.e The Patriot, Top Gun, Saving Private Ryan, Captain America or um, Team America: World Police? America F-yeah! 😀 But there are a bazillion of patriotic movies out there, and it doesn’t have to be all about the good ‘ol USA.

So what’s your favorite patriotic movie, be it US-related or about your home country?….

2. Now, I’ve sort of been holding off on blogging about Batman vs. Superman but with the release of a few new photos courtesy of EW, I can’t help being mildly intrigued.

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Are they flirting or plotting against Superman??
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“I am Batman!” [Supes is like, yeah dude, I know who the heck you are]
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Lex Luthor has surfer hair? What’s wrong with THIS picture?

I’m liking Gal Gadot more and more as Wonder Woman, in fact I think I’m most excited to see her than her fellow male superheroes. Ok yesterday I came across this whilst browsing the net. Den of Geek reported the origin story that led to Dawn of Justice movie happening sooner than perhaps even the filmmakers themselves anticipated:

It was while making his Superman reboot, Man Of Steel, that Snyder approached the producers of the film, Christopher Nolan and David S Goyer, with a suggestion. “I said ‘what about at the end of the movie we do a scene where there’s a crate full of Kryptonite delivered to Wayne Manor?”

The response? “Everyone was like… ‘okaay’. Once you say it out loud, it’s a problem, because you can’t unsay it.”

Now, I’m still not super excited yet for this film… but I have to admit I’m more on board with this than I was say, a year ago. Surely it can’t be worse than Man of Steel?

What are your thoughts about Dawn of Justice and/or these new pics?

….

3. Lots of new trailers hit the past week, here are three that caught my eye.

First one is this upcoming *epic* drama based on a true story, directed by Werner HerzogQueen of the Desert starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson

A true story of the life of British explorer and adventurer, Gertrude Bell, QUEEN OF THE DESERT chronicles her journeys of love and loss in the Middle East during the early 20th century.

I have to say I’m mildly intrigued by this given Herzog’s directing, though I have reservation regarding the melodramatic tone of the film, not to mention the trailer itself is so darn sappy. It seems like it’s striving to be Lawrence of Arabia and though I like the fact that it’s from the female perspective, I’m tired of seeing Nicole Kidman in something resembling Australia. And what’s with James Franco?? He seems miscast right off the bat, I just don’t see him in a romantic role like this. Plus that music towards the end uses familiar music from Hans Zimmer’s The Thin Red Line. I swear that music’s been used by a bazillion other trailers and though it’s beautiful, the effect just isn’t as impactful anymore.

Then we have a remake of an Argentinian drama, Secret in Their Eyes. We have quite a cast here: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman [again].

A tight-knit team of FBI investigators, along with their District Attorney supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.

I still haven’t seen the 2009 Argentine film El secreto de sus ojos so I immediately watched the trailer of that one. Well I might give the original film a watch, it looks more mysterious and given that it doesn’t have the star power of the Hollywood version, I bet it’s a better film overall.

 

Now, last but not least, we’ve got Creed which is a spin-off of the Rocky films, and Sylvester Stallone is a cast member and also one of the producers.

The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Creed, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.

Michael B. Jordan‘s a talented up-and-comer who’s been getting lots of prominent roles lately. He looks good here and though I’m not really into boxing movies, I did like the first Rocky film and so I might watch this one. Scottish actor Graham McTavish (The Hobbit, Starz’s Outlander) is in this also.

What’s your initial thoughts of these three movies?

4. Another first look on a movie I’ve been curious about ever since it’s announced six years ago: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. At the time, Natalie Portman was going to play Elizabeth Bennet, and now we’ve got Cinderella‘s Lily James in the lead role. She’s quoted as saying: “She’s the most badass zombie slayer there is.” Okay then, bring it on!

Jane Austen’s classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge — an army of undead zombies.

I know that Jane Austen purists probably aren’t keen on this twisted idea from Seth Grahame-Smith who penned the novel of the same name. But as a fan of period dramas, I get a kick out of classic re-imagining, and this idea is so bizarre it could actually be a lot of fun. Then again, I was one of those people who enjoyed the heck out of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which was also borne out of Grahame-Smith’s novel. Check out the pics also from EW:

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This blissful image of a wedding at Darcy’s Pemberley is about to get bloody interesting
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Uh-oh… a lady isn’t supposed to devour a man in THIS way
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Jane & Lizzie equipped themselves for the zombie battle

I like the cast of this movie: Sam Riley as Mr. Darcy, Douglas Booth as Mr Bingley and best of all, Jack Huston as the devilish cad Mr. Wickham. I’m not familiar at all with the director Burr Steers however, so hopefully he has the chops to pull off this crazy concept.

So what do you think of this classic-reimagining idea for a movie?

5. This month’s Five for the Fifth’s guest is Katy from Girl Meets Cinema:

GirlMeetsCinema

I was thinking about Terminator Genisys reboot, it’s alternative timeline to bring back the original characters and how the story confused movie goers/critics. So my question would be:

Do you think reboots have to center around the original characters or OR can a franchise continue on successfully with brand new characters?


Well, that’s it for the July 2015 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Five for the Fifth: September 2013 Edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the first FALL edition of Five for the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. I always like to spotlight a filmmaker/actor who’s having a birthday on Five for the Fifth and today happens to be Werner Herzog’s 71st Birthday today.

WernerHerzogI have to admit that I actually have not seen a single film by the German director, though I have seen one that he produced, that is The Act of Killing and saw his acting for the first time in Jack Reacher. My friend Vince and I was just talking about him not too long ago, in which we talked about his interesting love-hate relationship with Klaus Kinski. In fact, he’s going to lend me the documentary My Best Fiend – Klaus Kinski.

Even if you’re not familiar with Mr. Herzog, just reading his IMDb bio would give you a glimpse into his um, enigmatic character. Apparently he saved Joaquin Phoenix once when he was on a car crash, but then vanished after calling an ambulance. Speaking of car accidents, have you seen his PSA on Texting While Driving which was sponsored by AT & T and other phone carrier companies. It’s interesting as according to CNN, Herzog doesn’t even own a cellphone! But the article says, “… he looks at the statistics for texting-while-driving incidents — as well as our smartphone obsession and its cost in simple human contact — and recognizes the necessity of saying something.” Here’s one of the PSA video:

I’m curious what you think of Mr. Herzog and what’s your favorite film that he’s done?

2. Seems that in the movie world at least, the geek shall inherit the earth… with J.J. Abrams as the geek god. Having completed two Star Trek films, now he’s busy working on the Star Wars sequels. I’ve got to admit I didn’t really pay attention to the whole Star Wars VII development… well that is until Benedict Cumberbatch is [rumored] to be cast. Boy, this has been quite a year for crazy casting rumors isn’t it, as I was quite convinced that Bryan Cranston has indeed been cast as Lex Luthor in the Man of Steel sequel and I was rejoicing in that fact! So now Cumberbatch is apparently the latest, shall we say, victim of casting rumor ran amok. Clearly some of his fans had fun making GIFs of Benedict with a lightsaber 😀

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Alas, it’s all apparently is JUST a rumor. But I like the first line of the NY Daily News article that debunked it:

Reports that Benedict Cumberbatch was cast in “Star Wars: Episode VII” seem to be full of Sith.

Full of Sith, ahah. Ah well, that’s too bad really, as I quite like the idea of him as a Sith Lord. And I think the actor would surely take that on, as he told Total Film early this year that he’s a Star Wars fan: “I was much more connected to [Star Wars] as a kid, in the way that a lot of kids are because it’s immediate storytelling, very simple – a beautifully, outrageously simple narrative in a way – and a wonderful three-act melodrama, opera. And I loved them. I really, really loved those films and I always wanted to be Han Solo…”
 

Well, what’s your thoughts about this casting idea folks? Would you be happy with Benedict Cumberbatch joining the next Star Wars movies?


3. This question is inspired by my recent viewing of MUD, in which two boys end up befriending a drifter with a shady past. I’ve always loved films about unlikely friendships. There are quite a few films with this kind of topic, and it spans multiple genres. A lot of buddy comedies often made up of people who didn’t initially get along but ended up becoming well, buddies. That’s certainly a popular variation of that theme, but I’m focusing mainly on dramatic or thriller genres.

Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman
Richard Jenkins + Haaz Sleiman in The Visitor

Some of my favorites of such films are The Intouchables, The Visitor, The Professionals, Finding Neverland, Mrs. Brown, just to name a few. I also just read Steph’s recent review of My Afternoon with Margueritte, which I might check out.

In the spirit of recommendations, please share YOUR favorite film(s) about unlikely friendships.


GravityPoster_Bullock4. One of the Fall films that’s been generating all kinds of buzz this week is Alfonso Cuarón‘s GRAVITY. The first trailer doesn’t really give us anything other than Sandra Bullock spinning out of control in space whilst her shuttle suddenly breaks apart around her, and George Clooney‘s voice speaking to her.

This second trailer gives more background to her character, Dr. Ryan Stone, described as a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission (per Wikipedia). Clooney plays a veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky, the only one Stone is able to communicate to in her desperate hour. Pretty gut-wrenching stuff.

“Is there somebody down there looking up, thinking about you?” Kowalsky asks.

“I had a daughter,” Stone whispers, “A little girl with brown hair. Tell her that I’m not quitting.”

Check out the latest trailer below:

I’m even more intrigued now, even before James Cameron calling it “the best space film ever done,” which was all over Twitter yesterday. I’ve always liked Sandra Bullock and this is a role I don’t usually associate her with but I know she’s a capable actress. Cuarón‘s a formidable director, whose Children of Men is one of my favorite sci-fi films. Sounds like he might give us another sci-fi classic with this one.

What say you folks? What’s your level of interest on GRAVITY?


5. Last but not least, now here are two films based on TV shows that definitely piqued my interest. Both of them star sexy, crush-worthy Brits of course 😉

IdrisElbaLutherThe first one is the BBC crime drama series LUTHER starring Idris Elba. According to the series creator, Neil Cross, the movie adaptation’s script is already written. Per Total Film, speaking at the Edinburgh TV festival, Cross confirmed that a feature film is going ahead, and announced that the plot will take the form of a prequel story following Luther’s early career. Mr. Elba is reportedly set to return as the protagonist. Well I sure hope so, who’s actually going to watch if he’s NOT in it??

Now, the other one is The Man from U.N.C.L.E, which is based on the  movies based on the mid 60s TV series of the same name. I love the cast so far: Two impossibly gorgeous guys, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, are playing CIA and KGB agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, respectively. The movie could’ve been called Superman Twins or something like that as I could totally see the 6’5″ Hammer as Superman as well.

Cavill_Hammer_ManFromUNCLE

So far Hugh Grant (who’ll be playing the head of British Naval Intelligence) and Jared Harris have joined the cast as well. I’m sooo glad Henry got the role, I remember months ago that Tom Cruise was originally cast in his role. I think Henry is a better choice as he’s much closer to Armie’s age (not to mention height).

Set in the early 60s at the height of the Cold War, the film is set to begin production next week in England, with location filming in Rome and Naples (nice!). Scott Z. Burns (a Minnesota native!) who wrote The Bourne Ultimatum, Contagion, Side Effects, etc. is penning the script. I think if Guy Ritchie is making this more like a action-adventure comedy like his Sherlock Holmes films, this could be a lot of fun. 

What are your thoughts on either one of these projects? Or you can also tell me what other TV series you’d like to see being made into a feature film.


That’s it for the September 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now pick one or do them all!

JULY Movie Watching Recap and Movie of the Month

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Happy August everybody! I missed June’s recap because it was such a whirlwind month for me, but it’s back now!

Whoah, it’s the last month of the year before we get to the ‘–ber’ month (or brrrrrr month if you’re in Minnesota!)… and that also means the end of Blockbuster Movies is near. I think there are only a couple of Summer movies left, Smurfs 2 this weekend, and We’re The Millers & Elysium next weekend.

Now, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from this past month:

New-to-me Films Watched:

ACatinParis

A Cat in Paris (2010)

PacRim

Pacific Rim

DespicableMe2

Despicable Me

Tremors

Tremors

RED2RED 2

TheWolverine

The Wolverine

WereTheMillers

We’re The Millers (review next week)

ActOfKilling

The Act of Killing (2012)


Rewatches:

MansfieldPark1999

Mansfield Park

XMen

X-Men (2000)

BatmanYearOne

Batman: Year One

BatmanBegins

Batman Begins

VicarsOfDibley_ChristmasSpecial

The Vicars of Dibley (Christmas Special)

July seems to have gone by pretty quickly. I didn’t see any film the first weekend of July, but I guess I was able to see quite a bit of movies in about three weeks. The surprise film of the month for me has been Pacific Rim, which I saw twice in a month, with The Wolverine being the most disappointing.


Movie of the Month:

JulyMovie_TheActOfKilling

I was going to put down Pac Rim as movie of the month but that was before I saw this film.

The Act of Killing is a chilling documentary that recounts the mass-killings in 1965, which is the darkest moments in my homeland Indonesia’s history. I saw this a couple of nights ago and well, all the adjectives you’ve probably heard about this film: harrowing, disturbing, shocking, brutal, mind-blowing, etc. are no hyperbole. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before and one that I won’t soon forget.

This is what Werner Herzog, who was one of the producers of the film, said about it:

“I have not seen a film as powerful, surreal, & frightening in at least a decade.”

I’ll be interviewing director Joshua Oppenheimer tomorrow afternoon, so stay tuned for my review and the interview post next week!


Well, that’s my monthly recap folks. What’s YOUR favorite film you saw in July?

Weekend Roundup: Jack Reacher and Muriel’s Wedding

Happy Tuesday all!

It’s quite a memorable weekend for me as my hubby and I celebrated our 10th anniversary on Friday. We had a wonderful dinner Friday night and went shopping for a new ring on Sunday afternoon as my anniversary present 😀

Since we’ve already seen The Great Gatsby early in the week (check out my review), it’s home cinema time. Looks like a lot of you did go see Baz Luhrmann’s literary adaptation as it managed to make about $50 mil (which is about half of its production budget), but not great enough to top Iron Man 3 which made $72 mil to top box office for its second week.

Anyway, I’m only going to do a mini review of both of these films. So here goes:

JackReacherMurielsWedding

Jack Reacher (2012)

I’ve been wanting to check out Jack Reacher for a while and it’s finally available to rent this weekend. I’m not going to review it here as Ted already written one here. Here’s an excerpt:

In the end I thought it was a well made action thriller that didn’t take itself too seriously and I like the fact it has that old school 70s thriller feel to it. I would definitely love to see more of Jack Reacher films in the future.

I think I’d agree with Ted’s 4/5 rating. I thought it was an engaging thriller that’s more focused on the who-dun-it story instead of just some overly fast-paced but vapid shoot-em-ups. I agree that the action scenes were well-directed and that you could actually SEE the action as director Christopher McQuarrie  didn’t employ the overused fast-cuts with dizzying blurry effect. I think Cruise’s performance here is much stronger than in Oblivion, but then again, there’s more focus on character development here than simply showing pretty visuals.

JackReacherSupportingCast
Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo and Werner Herzog

It’s interesting casting to see two Brits playing American in this movie: David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike, who are both pretty good here. I’d say Oyelowo even upstaged Richard Jenkins but can’t really fault Jenkins as his role is actually pretty boring. But the scene-stealer is Werner Herzog, simply because he just lends such as sinister portrayal of the main villain who was a former POW at a Soviet Gulag. He’s menacing but more in an amusing kind of way.

Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

We didn’t plan on watching a wedding-themed movie for our anniversary, but we ended up seeing an Australian coming-of-age comedy Muriel’s Wedding. I’ve been wanting to see this for a while as I quite like Toni Collette as an actress. She’s so talented but quite underrated IMO, as you probably could attest if you’ve seen her performance in Emma, The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine, etc. This is the first of her earlier roles that I saw, which not only displayed her versatility but also her dedication to her craft as she had to gain 40 pounds to play Muriel!

MurielsWeddingStills

Set in Australia, the protagonist is a misfit girl named Muriel who always wants to escape her miserable life in a fictitious town called Porpoise Spit. The title of the movie refers to Muriel’s obsession with getting married, even to the point of snapping photos of herself in wedding gowns. Collette owns her role as Muriel, featuring a bravura, no–holds–barred type of performance from start to finish. Despite some cheesy and even cringe-worthy moments, overall this movie is an amusing journey about self-acceptance and also a celebration of friendship. Rachel Griffiths is wonderfully spunky as Muriel’s BFF Rhonda, who endured a pretty drastic sudden change that’s heart-wrenching to watch.

One of the major highlights is of course, the wedding scene. If I had seen it before I made my top 10 movie wedding list, I’d have included the one here. I’ve always wondered why the groom has that befuddled look on his face in all the photos from this scene, and now I know why!! If you’re a fan of 70s music, particularly the Swedish band ABBA, then you’ve got to rent this movie. I find myself humming Dancing Queen and Fernando a lot the past couple of days, ahah.

I’d readily recommend both of these movies so give it a go next time you’re looking for something to rent!


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. What did you see this weekend? Anything good?