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Miles To Go|Review

There are plenty of movies out there about failed relationships and even more about men who well, refuse to grow up and take responsibility for their lives and actions.   However few penetrate deep enough below the surface to help us understand the nature of someone’s psyche and the fact that despite their best efforts, people are who they are; just hard wired to be and act in a certain way.  Miles To Go is not just a clever title about a man trying to find answers to this first world problem but a smart and intimate look at a man struggling with who he is as he constantly debates (mainly with himself) about what will make him happy.
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Raw, authentic and extremely well acted, talented writer/director Quincy Rose also acts as the main protagonist Miles, a writer from Los Angeles with insomnia and writer’s block who we meet 5 months after a split with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Julia.  Struggling with chronic dissatisfaction in long-term relationships, Miles, is faced with his innermost paradoxical beliefs: that he deserves love and longs for love yet doesnt think that it can last for him.  Needless to say, Miles is a complicated yet oddly likable neurotic man-child who spends most of his time with an inner circle of confidantes: Sydney, his foul-mouthed, chauvinistic, free-spirited best friend; Regan, his neurotically insecure platonic girlfriend; Alexandra, his depression-riddled sister still grieving her divorce and the loss of their mother; Lucy, his safe and consistently sound therapist; and of course, Julia the Maybe” one.
The movie unfolds leisurly and is not plot heavy yet the fact that Rose has included much of his own life experiences in front of the camera makes this dramedy an authentic and unique window into indecisiveness, recovery and intimate relationships; those with our siblings, friends and of course lovers.  Often the voice of reason and even stability to others, Miles is unable to take his own advice, committing more easily to inking his body vs. committing his heart and mind to love and the joys it may bring him if he lets it.
Natural and effective dialogue along with a series of clever and judiciously used jump-shots help us understand what it must be like to be Miles.  It is easy to forget that this is Quincy Rose’s directorial debut.  Miles To Go is an admirable entry into the genre and evidence that Rose’s voice is one worth listening to and certainly enjoyable to watch.  I await your next movie with excitement Mr. Rose
Miles To Go also stars Jen McPherson, Zachary Tiegen, Kim Argetsinger and Maggie Rowe
Miles To Go is available on VOD beginning April 28th

The Riot Club | Review

Riot Club is no Downton Abbey however, it cleverly explores class, gender and economics in a modern-day England where the existence of a privileged “Old Boy’s Network” is often under-estimated.

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Filthy. Rich. Spoiled. Rotten. A band of overprivileged rich boys run wild in this savagely funny satire of money, sex and power. In the elite realm of Oxford University, no society is more exclusive than The Riot Club, the ultra-selective fraternity for Britain’s most privileged sons. When he’s recruited to join, down-to-earth first-year student Miles (Max Irons) is at first amused—but he’s about to get a taste of upper-crust entitlement at its ugliest when a hedonistic night of drinking and drugs spins out of control. The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin co-stars in this deliciously dark look at boys behaving badly from the Oscar(R)-nominated director of An Education Lone Scherfig.  The movie is adapted for the screen by Writer Laura Wade from her play of the same name citing: “I think we are fascinated by that class, those of us who aren’t of it and I think we love watching rich people behaving badly”.

When all over the world the British Monarchy are loved and the presence of them almost envied, Riot Club explores the “Haves” and “Have little” along with the politics of the one percent in a country where young affluent boys are the heirs to debauchery, power, excess and a consequence of who they are born to vs what they will or won’t achieve; where as a result of deep routed nepotism, your family name can open up a lifetime of doors and quickly bury any of your mistakes should you make them.

Entitlement and breeding are a key theme throughout the movie as it explores rich boys behaving badly and rich boys who want to do something more than be known for who their Fathers or brothers are.  Palpable tension is at work throughout as this group of would-be playboys work incredibly hard to have a good time and leave a legacy.

Riot Club starts as a smart satirical comedy but quickly gets dramatic as ideas about right and wrong are pushed to the limit.  Sometimes a little tonally inconsistent, this movie does do a good job of examining what it means to belong and the limits you go to in order to protect it.  A look at life behind the walls of an age-old institution with often strange rituals, ultimately what I took away from this movie is that there are no limits to entitlement and the fact that often it’s not what you know but who you know

Check local listings for show times

Riot Club Trailer

The Wrecking Crew | Review

If you happen to like or have any interest in music then you will enjoy this film, if you like music from the 60’s and early 70s then you will LOVE it. This is a head bopping, toe tapping musical extravaganza that tells an important story about a group of genius studio and session musicians who wrote the soundtrack for an entire generation and never gained any credit for it; the music industries best kept secret otherwise known as “The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew poster

The Wrecking Crew is a documentary film produced and directed by Denny Tedesco, son of legendary late Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco who through interview, archival footage, photographs and an extraordinary soundtrack recounts the legend of the unsung musicians that provided the backbeat, the bottom and the swinging melody that drove many of the number one hits of the 1960’s. It didn’t matter if it was Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, The Byrds or The Beach Boys, these dedicated musicians brought the flair and musicianship that made the American “west coast sound” a dominant cultural force around the world. 

What is most fascinating about the documentary is just how widespread the use of the wrecking crew was in the sixties. Often creating or laying down whole tracks anonymously that bands would later claim as their own work, I was under the impression that the infamous West German-based R&B pop group MIlli Vanilli created by Frank Farian in Munich in 1988 were the first of their kind and ultimately they ended up getting their Grammy for best newcomer withdrawn. Watching this documentary then felt like a huge OMG moment when I realized just how duped we have been by an entire industry.

Interestingly, according to some the name “The Wrecking Crew” was derived from the impression that these younger Levis and T-Shirt working studio musicians made on the business’s older generation (who at the time typically wore blue blazers and ties) and felt that they were going to wreck the music industry. They did anything but; this group of music aficionados have left a haunting legacy in the music they have created and chances are that on any given day you have sung along to at least one tune that this ensemble are responsible for without even knowing it.

What ultimately comes across through this well constructed documentary is a story about a diverse group of people including producers, engineers, and the musicians themselves who are not only the best at what they did but who loved doing it. Almost four decades later most seem unphased by the fact they received zero recognition on dozens of hit records but instead recount treasured stories with warmth and humor of experiences and events that they seem to hold dear. Most importantly this is a testament from a proud son to his Father

The Wrecking Crew is directed by Denny Tedesco. Produced by Denny Tedesco, Suzie Greene Tedesco, Damon Tedesco, Chris Hope, Mitchell Linden, Claire Scanlon, Jon Leonoudakis and Susanna Hoffs.

This film opens in Los Angeles, New York and on VOD and iTunes on March 13th. Check Local listings

Seattle International Film Festival – Golden Space Needle Audience Award Winner

Tallgrass Film Festival – Audience Award Winner

SXSW Film Festival (Official Selection)

Docuweek (Official Selection)

Mill Valley Film Festival (Official Selection)

Nashville International Film Festival (Official Selection)

Florida Film Festival (Official Selection)

Why We Should Care About Award Shows

It’s 3pm on February 22nd and if you are a movie fan then you will know that we are only hours away from the Oscars commencing; the crown jewel, climax or mother of all award shows.

If you are not such a movie lover and even if you are these days, it’s easy to feel fatigued from the never ending news cycles of Who is wearing what, Who will be presenting and what is in this years swag bag. However by the time it gets to the end of February, most people are wondering why they should even care anymore especially when you realize that this year’s cycle of film festivals and early predictions of next year’s Oscar winners is already underway with the first of the larger film festivals Sundance already over by the beginning of February.

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Award shows are important though, not only because they support a huge number of jobs in a variety of industries but also because they have a direct impact on the films you will want to watch. There is a reason why the nominations occur in mid January a full almost six weeks prior to the ceremony. Often this gives movies released earlier in the year a second wind and allow those that only had smaller openings to go mainstream once they receive a nomination ala whiplash or The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Before starting Moviewallas, we often used to find ourselves waiting for the nominations so that we could check off any of the movies that we hadn’t seen that were deemed to be noteworthy by those who knew. We too found ourselves in a long line unlike anything I had ever seen in 2009 waiting to get into Slumdog Millionaire, a film I hadn’t even heard of up until the day of the nominations. 

In subsequent years since having had the privilege of doing Moviewallas, we love the fact that films that we have only been fortunate enough to watch through a film festival or a screener catch fire and gain momentum and become available for everyone to watch. The most frustrating thing as movie reviewer is that often films we love and get to watch don’t either get distribution or get such a small release and only in major cities.

There is a notion that over the last few years there has been a proliferation of award shows and well, that there are just too many these days. Is it so wrong though for each association such as The Director’s Guild, The Hollywood Foreign Press, The Producers Guild and many others to celebrate and reward/award good work and recognize their own?

One could say that that ultimately award shows are just for entertainment and that’s ok in my book too. Ultimately whether you enjoy a movie more or less because it was nominated is not important, long after the award season is over you wont even remember whether those movies that had a lasting impact on you were nominated or not. What does matter though is that good movies (studio or independent) keep getting made, that we find out what they are and we have a means to watch them and if award shows help, I say the more the merrier. Now who do you think will win Best Picture this year?

Summer of Blood | Review

Halloween is upon us and with it comes a slew of scary movies; “Annabelle” “Dracula Untold” and “Horns” just opened or are about to.  However, if you are not a die hard fan of having your adrenaline levels peak in the dark or find that a good nights sleep escapes you after getting the bejeezus scared out of you then this may just be the movie for you.  Welcome to Summer of Blood

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Writer/director Onur Tukel turns in a hilarious performance as the monumentally lazy, socially oblivious and commitment-shy Erik Sparrow, who is dumped by his career-woman girlfriend (Anna Margaret Hollyman, White Reindeer) when he rejects her rather charitable marriage proposal. Feeling lost, he turns to a disastrous string of online dates that successively eat away at his already-deteriorating confidence until a lanky vampire turns him into an undead ladykiller. Soon, Eric is prowling the streets of Brooklyn in search of anything to satisfy both his maniacal sex drive and his hunger for blood.

Despite the fact that Eric is such a misogynist loser, Tukel shows skill in making the main protagonist incredibly likable; I couldn’t help but be on his side.  Helped by the witty dry comedy which runs through the movie both Eric and the rather ridiculous plot had me smiling and chuckling for the entire movie including a few belly laughs thrown in here and there.  The dialogue is hammy in places but mostly clever and smart and there is an interesting narrative about the lives we lead if you look for it. Anna Margaret Hollyman who plays Eric’s love interest plays her role perfectly, equally lovable and annoying all at the same time and is impressive in her ability to detest Eric so convincingly.

Summer of Blood is by no means as polished as other undead offerings like “Twilight” or “True Blood”  in fact at times at times this movie looks rather amateurish and even homemade, but that doesn’t make it bad.  I believe this hard working movie could turn into an underground cult classic in due course and I will certainly be lining up to watch this one again

Described as a horror comedy horror, this is more comedy than horror and definitely not a horrible comedy by any means.A collision of absurd, self-deprecating wit and existential curiosity, Summer of Blood is a hilarious horror-comedy with a clever bite all its own that starts with one of the best break up scenes ever right at the beginning of the movie and is definitely worth a watch

The film is releasing this Friday October 17th in select theaters and VOD.  Check local listings for a screening near you

Art and Craft | Review

This documentary begins with the quote “Nothing is original under the sun” however this definitely does not apply to the person who quotes it.  Mark Landis is an artist; a con artist for all intents and purposes and has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century icons, Picasso and even Walt Disney.

Landis makes an interesting protagonist in the movie Art and Craft, described in his youth as a “bright little boy but prone to be mischievous”, the little boy never quite leaves the screen as you are mesmerized watching this genius copying incredibly complex works of art, a talent that he discovered in his youth after visiting museums with his parents and copying from museum catalogues.  And whilst you may think that Landis may be in it for the money, this is far from the truth. Instead, Landis derives much pleasure and purpose posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest and has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States.

 

 

The caper begins to unravel after he dupes Matthew Leininger, a tenacious registrar who ultimately discovers the decades-long ruse and sets out to expose his philanthropic escapades to the art world, Landis must confront his own legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.

What is most enjoyable about the movie is the equal obsession demonstrated by both the forger and the man determined to stop him, like any good Super hero story, the latter needs his arch nemesis and quickly we realize that this movie isn’t actually about the art in question but about the mania of two men each obsessed with their own purpose.  At the end of it all though, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if this incredibly talented man did his own work?

ART AND CRAFT opens at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles this Friday, September 26th 
Check local listings for a screening near you

http://artandcraftfilm.com

Underwater Dreams | Review

It is easy to dismiss Underwater Dreams as yet another David vs. Golliath tale as it chronicles the epic story of four teenage boys from the desert who built an underwater robot from Home Depot parts and went up against engineering powerhouse MIT in a NASA contest and won.

However, there is way more to this documentary written and directed by Mary Mazzio than first meets the eye and narrated expertly by Michael Pena. Hidden behind the robotics and competition is an incredible story of immigration, aspiration and what happens when smart people are given opportunities that others often take for granted. It’s true, nerds come in different shapes, sizes, cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.

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We’ve all heard the phrase “behind every successful man is a woman”, well behind every successful student is a passionate teacher and in this documentary, the boys are lucky enough to have two; Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron, two energetic high school science teachers, who on a whim, enter their high school, a Title I school where most of the students live in poverty, into a sophisticated underwater robotics competition sponsored by NASA and the Office of Naval Research, among others.

Winning the competition was never a consideration and what comes across in this heart-warming tale is the enthusiasm and verve each of the four boys (Lorenzo Santillian, Oscar Vazquez, Luis Aranda and Cristian Arcega) plus their teachers bring to the project. Despite advice from oceanic engineers that their underwater robot (aptly named Stinky) would require expensive glass syntactic flotation foam, the group charge forward with all they could afford which was PVC pipe, some duct tape and oh yes some tampons!

This documentary is timely given the current state of immigration in the US where unprecedented numbers of illegal minors are bombarding the US for a chance at a better life. Although the documentary doesn’t advocate one way or another, what it does do cleverly is create empathy for smart kids who just want to make something of themselves and contribute to moving the field of robotics further; One can’t argue with that.

The most moving and haunting part of this movie for me is ten years on from the memorable win, how the lives of these four incredible boys has evolved and diversified and just how much these boys; sons of undocumented parents themselves are willing to give back to kids who they have inspired as a result of their actions.

Underwater Dreams Trailer

Website: www.UnderwaterDreamsFilm.com

AMC Theatres Release: AMC will release the movie theatrically on July 11, 2014 at AMC Burbank in Los Angeles and AMC Empire 25 in New York. In addition, beginning July 19,

AMC will host community screenings free of charge for schools, non-profits and other communities whose members would be inspired and entertained by this movie. Requests for community screenings can be submitted via the film’s website: www.UnderwaterDreamsFilm.com or by email requests@50eggs.com.

Check Local Listings for viewing details

 

Coherence | Review

I have been lucky enough to see one comet in my lifetime so far and fortunately it did not come with half of the drama that faces the group of eight friends at dinner in the movie Coherence.  

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On the night of an astronomical anomaly namely one Miller’s comet flying through the skies, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events. Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, Coherence is a tightly focused, intimately shot film whose tension intensely ratchets up as its numerous complex mysteries unfold.

There are many thing to like about this movie including the fact that this is an incredibly original idea.  Like all of the best sic-fi movies, what is most enjoyable to watch is the depth of the characters and the relationships between them.  Good writing ensures that we understand the meaningful history between this group of eight complete with conflicts and ex boyfriends/girlfriends which add spice to the movie as the tension builds and we try and make sense of exactly what is going on.  The mystery unfolds slowly, posing interesting existential questions as it does so.  This married with innovative editing as each scene cuts to black often creates horror-esque tension leaving you wondering just how everything will wrap up.  When you do finally get to the end of the movie, it will leave you with many questions about your own life including

Some of the things that I enjoyed most about this movie were impressive around the dinner table scenes where the conversation seemed so natural and organic as it weaved and morphed that iI almost forgot I was watching a movie and watching a fly on the wall documentary instead.  In addition, the way that group think is portrayed both when faced by a problem and also how people react under severe stress and pressure was well acted and directed.

Coherence Trailer

Coherence is written and directed by James Ward Byrkit and stars Nicholas Brendon, Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian (who conceived of the story), Lauren Maher, Hugo Armstrong and Lorene Scafaria.

Coherence  will be in theaters beginning June 20th, check local listings for show times

Out in the Night | Los Angeles Film Festival 2014

Exactly what is the responsibility of the media in reporting news? In my opinion, news should be reported factually and in an unbiased fashion. However we all know that with the advent of syndicated news channels and the need for 24-hour news cycles, it is easy for smaller stories to escalate to larger ones and others to get sensationalized and out of control. Welcome to the movie Out in the Night, a new documentary by Blair Dorosh-Walther that examines the 2006 case of The New Jersey 4.

 

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Through the lives of four young women, Out in the Night reveals how their race, gender identity and sexuality became criminalized in the mainstream news media and criminal legal system.

The documentary skillfully tells the story of a group of young friends, African American lesbians who are out, one hot August night in 2006, in the gay friendly neighborhood of New York City. They are all in their late teens and early twenties and come from a low-income neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey. Two of the women are the focus – gender non-conforming Renata Hill, a single mother with a soft heart and keen sense of humor, and petite femme Patreese Johnson, a shy and tender poet. As they and their friends walk under the hot neon lights of tattoo parlors in the West Village, an older man sexually and violently confronts them. He says to Patreese “let me get some of that” as he points below her waist. When she says that they are gay, the man becomes violent and threatens to “fuck them straight”. He spits and throws a lit cigarette. Renata and Venice defend the group and a fight begins, captured by security cameras nearby. The man yanks out hair from Venice’s head and chokes Renata. Then, Patreese pulls a knife from her purse and swings at him. Strangers jump in to defend the women and the fight escalates. As the fight comes to an end, all get up and walk away. But 911has been called and the man involved has been stabbed. Police swarm to the scene as their radios blast out warning of a gang attack. The women are rounded up and charged with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. Three of the women plead guilty. But Renata, Patreese, Venice and friend Terrain claim their innocence. They are called a “Gang of Killer Lesbians” by the media. In activist circles they become known as The New Jersey 4.

One can easily forgive Dorosh-Walther for giving us a somewhat one-sided narrative given few people were initially advocating for the women and even fewer people have been able to hear the story from their side, but this is an important documentary to watch. Out in the Night will anger you, sadden you and frustrate you all at the same time and so it should because Justice should be genderless, raceless and sexless and yet we are led to believe time and time again that had these women been middle class heterosexual white women, their lives may have turned out very differently.

The incredible narrative that unfolds over a period of years beginning in 2006 through to present day and in some cases through many of the years that some of the women were incarcerated  will have you glued to your seat. Beyond the injustice however, the most endearing thing about this documentary is the women front and center of the debate, Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain, who have very graciously opened up their lives to us.

Out in the Night Trailer

The Amazing Spider Man 2 | First Look

Watch the new  Amazing Spider Man 2 trailer right here